Coronation Street is set to explore the issue of loneliness and its impact on mental health in a storyline featuring veteran of the cobbles Audrey Roberts.
Audrey, played by Sue Nicholls, made her first appearance in the ITV soap in 1979, and last month viewers saw her receiving treatment in hospital after she overdosed.
In an emotional scene, which will be broadcast on August 15, Audrey confides in friends Roy, Rita, Claudia and Ken and admits to attempting suicide, despite previously telling her doctor she had only taken too many tablets by mistake.
However, while sitting at a belated birthday lunch with her friends, Audrey will reveal that she made an attempt on her life three weeks ago and only survived because a neighbour posting a leaflet spotted her and called an ambulance.
As her friends try to come to terms with the shock revelation, they ask Audrey what led to the suicide attempt, confessing their guilt at not spotting the signs that their friend was struggling.
As the friends discuss the problems that growing older can bring, Audrey explains that she misses her late husband Alfie and that she had been feeling useless and depressed, turning to alcohol after suffering with her eyesight deteriorating.
Speaking to the group, Audrey says: “I just seemed to spiral downwards.
“I’d toss and turn all night, then finally drop off just when I should be up and at ’em. Seizing the day.
“Spend the afternoons on the sauvignon blanc, wondering exactly what I’m good for?”
Speaking about her character’s struggles, Nicholls, 78, explained: “Audrey is very sorry for what she has done and certainly her first reaction was to keep it from her family. Family do, and will always, mean so much to her despite the sniping now and again.
“She also enjoys and is grateful for being independent and living happily in her own home although the one big regret that has contributed to this latest situation is a wish that dear Alfie was still alive and there with her so that they could have grown old and equally doddery together…
“Once she was able to speak with her friends, and they then opened up about their struggles, she realised how much they had helped her immensely regarding her problems.”
She added: “Now that is the message that I want people to take away from this storyline, the importance of being able to talk to people you trust about how you feel.
“Sometimes the young generation might think that anyone over 70 isn’t capable of making decisions which in turn can make older people lose their sense of purpose and begin to feel quite useless.”
Assistant director of research and influencing at Samaritans Jacqui Morrissey said: “The reasons for suicide are complex and very rarely down to one issue, which Audrey’s story has really captured.
“Our listening volunteers hear lots of mentions of loneliness and isolation, which can affect anyone at any time.
“As the last few years have been incredibly challenging, many Coronation Street fans may have found themselves struggling at times, so it’s crucial that people remember support is available, and feel able to reach out if they are finding life difficult.”
Help can be found by calling the Samaritans free of charge at any time on 116 123 or by email at email@example.com or visit Samaritans.org.
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