EastEnders‘ Sean Slater (Rob Kazinsky) is back in Walford after more than a decade, and dramatic scenes on Monday 29th April revealed he had contemplated taking his own life as he reacted to the news of ex-wife Roxy’s death.
Jean Slater (Gillian Wright) has been trying to reach her volatile son Sean since her ovarian cancer diagnosis, but attempts to track down her estranged offspring 10 years after he left the country so they can make amends for their fractious past proved fruitless for both the worried mum and her daughter, Stacey Fowler (Lacey Turner) – or so it seemed.
Sean secretly returned on Friday 26th April and kidnapped Roxy’s daughter Amy, who he once believed to be his daughter, but in the following episode it became obvious he had no idea soulmate Rox and her big sister Ronnie were dead.
Returning Amy unharmed to fuming dad Jack Branning (Scott Maslen), Sean was dragged to a cemetery where he was faced with the graves of the Mitchell sisters who perished in 2017. Left alone shell-shocked with grief, following a tense showdown with former love rival Jack, the unstable Mr Slater reflected on the mistakes he made with their marriage and muttered to Roxy he would be “with her soon,” as it became clear he had considered suicide in his wilderness years off screen.
This week is dominated by Sean’s return as fans learn the character is struggling with a dark secret he has kept to himself for years. As he opens up to Jean and Stacey, the impact this has had on his mental health becomes strikingly apparent.
What happens next with Sean Slater’s return storyline?
EastEnders has worked closely with charity the Samaritans on Sean’s comeback plot to ensure it’s portrayed sensitively. Lorna Fraser, who heads up the organisation’s media advice service, said: “It is important we raise awareness of the issues surrounding suicide and drama can play a powerful role in this. Carefully developed storylines her generate discussion and can prompt viewers, who may be suffering in silence, to speak out and seek help.
“Sean’s story highlights the important of talking about our feelings when we’re struggling to cope… For some, it can be a huge relief to know someone has spotted they may be going through a difficult time and they are there to listen.”
Kate Oates, BBC Head of Continuing Drama, who persuaded Kazinsky to reprise his role for the hard-hitting plot, added: “Sean’s return gives us a unique opportunity to explore two different aspects of mental health: on the one hand, the results of a long-term and untreated depression, and on the other, a person who has had a lifetime of trying to understand the delicate balance of their own mental health – and is coming out winning.
“The story is beautifully and intelligently played by Robert Kazinsky and Gillian Wright, both of whom cared deeply about getting it right, prompting discussion, and making a difference.”
Contact Samaritans free at any time on 116 123, email email@example.com or visit samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch where you can talk to one of their trained volunteers face to face.
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