Hollyoaks star Ashley Taylor Dawson has praised the soap for tackling male mental health, with the parallel stories of his alter ego Darren Osborne’s depression alongside Kyle Kelly’s tragic suicide, and has shared his personal connection to the sensitive subject matter.
“I’ve lost quite a few friends to suicide over the years and I don’t think any of us understand it enough,” he says, in an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com. “This storyline makes me proud of what we do. It’s been very strong and definitely the best, most important work I’ve ever done on Hollyoaks.”
Darren’s spiralling mental health saw him confide in friend Kyle, who was hiding his own depression and low self-esteem, and the pair ended up becoming each other’s confidant.
Just as Darren got to the point where he could open up to his partner and friends about his psychological struggles, Kyle felt abandoned and shut everyone out, and eventually took his own life. In the aftermath of his death, Darren blames himself for turning his back on his mate, and Osborne reflects on the contrasting attitudes to depression shown through the reactions of different characters.
“Luke initially telling Darren to ‘man up’, for instance, is the worst thing you can do, but that attitude is also the general consensus towards mental health: people can appear unsympathetic because they don’t understand what that person is going through, and think they’re just being lazy. I’ve been guilty of that.
“And Luke has a terminal illness and dealing with a shorter life expectancy at a young age, so for Darren to ask him for help produces feelings of selfishness from his perspective. Darren’s partner Mandy struggles to know what to do for the best, you don’t want to overdo it and mollycoddle. That balance is hard but there are no right or wrong answers. The fallout of Kyle’s suicide will continue the story and educate.
“We all look inward when we’ve got problems, and being in lockdown has really taught us, myself included, about anxiety. It’s a natural thing. We don’t give ourselves credit for what we go through in everyday life, but we need awareness of how people are feeling. Everybody needs to be more sensitive, especially now with what’s happening in the world.
“We can relate to this story more than ever now, and the response from the audience has been overwhelming. To get strong feedback and hear people open up is incredible.”
Inspired by his character’s journey, Dawson has used his time in lockdown to engage with the fans online about the importance of highlighting mental health. “Making an impact with this story is incredible but it doesn’t end there. On a personal note it has opened up my life, and I’m a bit of a contradiction of the story I’ve been telling.
“I want to help people hopefully come to terms with the issue and see themselves in it, not matter how little or large. If we can do that then the message has been a success.”
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