I have often described Hollyoaks as my guilty pleasure.
Whenever I admit this I am usually met with eye rolls, sighs of disagreement, and forced smiles – all tell-tale signs that people believe I could watch or read something better.
However, following the soap’s recent success at the Mind Media Awards 2018 I changed my mind about how I describe my enjoyment of the show. For years, my Instagram has been filled with Hollyoaks posts sporting the caption #DontFilterFeelings relating to important issues surrounding mental health. Eating disorders, schizophrenia, domestic abuse, self-harm, homelessness, and depression are just some of the issues covered by the show over the last few years.
— OpinionPanel (@OpinionPanelC) January 15, 2019
You’d be right to question whether it is possible to accurately and realistically represent such complex issues on one T.V. show. Some issues may have been glamourised or misrepresented. The self-harming storyline featured three beautiful girls in a bedroom draped in fairy-lights, while their loving yet oblivious mothers sat downstairs. This of course does not represent everyone going through similar issues and is perhaps displayed through rose-tinted glasses.
The point Hollyoaks makes is that these issues do occur every day. These issues are often hidden behind closed doors and viewed as taboo subjects, but Hollyoaks is speaking out. Recently the soap tackled domestic abuse, where the youngest son of the Maalik family, Imran, was finally exposed after abusing his mother and sister over the course of a year in real time. We saw why the abuse began, how it affected him and his victims, and how easily it was kept hidden. Just when you thought Hollyoaks had covered every angle, they took it a step further covering the issue of racism. Imran’s older half-brother warned him of the injustice he had done, not only to his family, but also as an Asian in compounding negative assumptions about how women are treated within their culture.
Hollyoaks shows how mental health, as we know it today, can affect everyone differently. The effects of an eating disorder were portrayed through a clever, young, Caucasian girl at university who was about to get married; anxiety was shown through a black man with a large close family; depression was explored through a middle-aged, adopted, gay man with a good support network; another domestic abuse victim was a character who was known as strong, untouchable, and even feared by others.
Hollyoaks has done what the media often fails to do – represent everyone. Whether you are gay or straight, black or white, male or female, young or old, this soap has gone a long way in showing how mental health issues can affect anyone. The Mental Health Network published statistics in March 2016 (to be reviewed in 2019) that show, ‘By 2030, it is estimated that there will be approximately two-million more adults in the UK with mental health problems than there were in 2013.’ With mental health issues increasing at such a rapid rate we need to talk more openly. The #DontFilterFeelings campaign created by Hollyoaks goes a long way in tackling these important issues which our society faces today.