**This article contains themes that some readers may find distressing**
Hollyoaks’ male depression storyline reaches a tragic chapter later this month when Kyle Kelly (Adam Rickitt) loses his battle with the illness and takes his own life.
The soap has been tackling the topic of male mental health in recent months through Kyle and close friend Darren Osborne’s joint struggles. While Darren has started to open up about his condition, Kyle continues to bottle up his feelings and spiral deeper into despair.
Later this month, as his wedding to fiancee Nancy Osborne draws closer, Kyle takes his own life and the impact of his loss and the grief felt by family and friends will be explored as the village comes to terms with the tragedy. Hollyoaks have confirmed the character’s death will not play out on screen.
Rickitt, who shot to fame playing Coronation Street’s Nick Tilsley between 1997 and 2004 before Ben Price took over the role, joined Hollyoaks as Nancy’s quirky childhood sweetheart in 2017. Speaking about his hard-hitting exit, the actor said: “As sad as I am to say goodbye to Kyle, I have loved being a part of Hollyoaks. To leave telling a story that is so important and challenging is more than I could ever have asked for.
“There was also a sense of personal fear,” he admits. “Like all too many I had to walk a similar path in my lifetime and the idea of revisiting that, even in the world of fiction, was slightly daunting.
“Like me, I hope viewers will find strength in its telling. The sensitivity and heart the writers put into the story really shone through, and at a time like now, more than ever, we need to be highlighting this sort of issue.”
Hollyoaks had planned the plot long before the current pandemic but, as with Corrie’s domestic abuse storyline, it has taken on even more resonance within the context of the UK lockdown which has seen an increase in anxiety and depression.
The soap’s executive producer Bryan Kirkwood revealed: “We have been laying the building blocks of Darren and Kyle’s individual stories for some time, carefully exploring the nuances that comes from two men living with depression in two very different ways.
“There is no face to male sucide and we wanted to highlight the ways in which depression can manifest itself with two of our much-loved characters.
“Telling this story highlights the importance of creating an environment to listen, giving those who need it the time to talk.”
Hollyoaks has worked closely with charities and campaigners raising awareness of male mental health. A report by The Samaritans discovered men are less likely to seek professional help for their mental health and three times more likely to take their own lives, with suicide being the biggest killer of males under the age of 50.
Angela Samata, suicide prevention campaigner, notes: “At the Hub of Hope, the national free mental health signposting app, there has been a 230% increase in use during lockdown. That tells me people are reaching out and looking for the right help and support for themselves and others.”
Mind’s head of media and PR, Aimee Gee, adds: “Through our media advisory service we worked closely with the Hollyoaks team to ensure the depictions of male depression and suicide were handled sensitively and portrayed accurately.
“We hope these storylines raise awareness of depression and the different ways it can affect people, and that anyone watching who is experiencing a mental health problem feels encouraged to seek support.”
Cast and producers were due to film a video at James’ Place, a centre for emergency male mental health based in Liverpool, which was postponed due to the lockdown, but help and support remains available at the organisation’s website www.jamesplace.org.uk.