Home and Away tackles the sensitive topic of self-harm in a hard-hitting episode focusing on troubled teen Bella Nixon (Courtney Miller), who ends up in hospital after suffering a breakdown when she’s reminded of her painful past.
Bella became the victim of online grooming in 2019 when she was befriended by a man called Tommy in an internet chat room, who then tried to rape her when they met in person. She was narrowly saved from the assault by foster mum Irene Roberts, who attacked the predatory paedophile.
Having found happiness with new boyfriend Nikau Parata, Bella finally seemed to be moving on from her ordeal but on Friday 29th May she has terrifying flashbacks to the incident with Tommy – with devastating consequences.
“Bella feels loved and accepted by Nik and they are about to take things to the next level and sleep together,” Miller tells RadioTimes.com. “But the traumatic memories from the Tommy event come flooding back in – the demons in her head taken over and self-harm is her attempt to relieve her psychological pain.”
Demanding Nikau leave, Bella locks herself in her room. Worried Nik rounds up Bella’s brother Colby Thorne and friend Ryder Jackson and when they return home and break the door down, they’re shocked to see Bella has been cutting herself.
“I talked to a few people who had gone through similar events in order to understand why someone would self-harm,” explains Miller of shooting the difficult scenes. “Preparation was necessary, just like any scene for me, but on the day I put my research aside and focused on reaching the emotional peaks that had been explained to me.”
Bella is rushed to hospital where the extent of her fragile mental state becomes clear, and she’s soon transferred to a psychiatric facility away from Summer Bay.
“Once she’s in therapy, Bella learns the necessity of healing within, to get to know her demons and change her thinking. Being away from the Bay and her family encourages her to learn to trust herself.
“As a therapy exercise, she writes letters to Colby, Irene and Nikau expressing her feelings as a means of reflection and healing.
“She realises she needs some time on her own, to learn how to stand on her own two feet. Sadly this means it’s over for her and Nikau for now. He already has a few things going on in his own life so adding heartbreak to the list forces him to spiral.”
While Bella recovers away from the Bay, Nixon assures fans her absence is temporary (“She has a few more stories to tell and fights to pick, so I’m sticking around!” she laughs) but warns her character’s journey will be a long one.
“It’s never smooth sailing for Bella, for this is Summer Bay of course. There are some good times in the future, there are some really bad times – and there are some really, really bad times ahead, I’m sorry to say…”