Ashley Taylor Dawson has spoken about Darren Osborne's depression storyline in Hollyoaks and why he believes his alter ego, who can usually be relied on for light relief, is the right character to explore the topic of male mental health.
"I'm not really surprised they chose Darren to have depression," the actor told RadioTimes.com in an exclusive interview. "Just look at what he's been through. He constantly tries to do the right thing but just doesn't go the right way about it. He's the kind of guy who always wants to put a smile on everyone's faces and is the life and soul - often it's the people you don't expect who go through this."
This week, Darren has spiralled further into despair as he battles symptoms of depression including low self-esteem and inadequacy. The troubled restaurant owner continues to keep quiet about his struggle but his behaviour becomes manic after forgetting to organise son Oscar's outfit for World Book Day at school, leading to him snapping at dad Jack Osborne.
The uncharacteristic lashing out leaves Jack concerned for his son, but will Darren reach out to his loved ones for help? As seen in Hollyoaks' recent leap year trailer, the storyline is set to continue throughout the spring with Kyle Kelly eventually becoming the first person to spot the signs of depression and offer to help his friend.
Dawson is relishing the challenge of tackling mental health, which Hollyoaks has portrayed to great acclaim in recent years with their #DontFilterFeelings campaign which inspired Scott Drinkwell's depression and Lily McQueen's self-harming.
"I'm proud to be asked to do it," says the actor, who has been in the cast since 1999. "Sadly in this day and age I think everyone has been touched by depression. It really affects men between 30 and 40, I've seen people go through it myself.
"We've consulted with charities and I've really wanted to be clear on certain things you would recognise if you're dealing with it for real. Even simple everyday tasks like having a shower can feel like the biggest deal. Of course talking about it is good, but getting to the bottom of the problem takes more than that, it's a massive mountain to climb.
"This all started when Darren left his life with Nancy for Mandy," he continues. "He felt proud he'd done the right thing and embarked on a proper relationship as opposed to an affair and he thought things were on an even keel.
"Then to find out DJ was not his biological son gave him all these doubts about who he is, want he wants. It spiralled into chaos in his head and he realised he wasn't happy, then he slept with Nancy when they were trapped in the tunnels because he felt he had nowhere to turn. Darren hasn't processed or been able to verbalise what he's going through."
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