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Soaps help perception of mental problems

Soap opera storylines help viewers understand mental health issues better, according to new research.

Academics studied soaps and shows such as Homeland and found that the way mental health issues are portrayed is becoming more realistic and is more likely to encourage people to seek help.

The report, by campaign group Time to Change, found mental health issues featuring more often in plot lines than five years ago but warned there were still some "simplistic portrayals" and misinformation.

More than 2,000 viewers were questioned as part of the research with more than half saying that seeing a character on screen portrayed as having a problem improved their understanding of conditions.


Almost half (48pc) said it helped change their opinion about who can develop such problems and nearly a third (31pc) said they had discussed storylines with friends or family.

Stuart Blackburn, the producer of Coronation Street which is about to feature a story where one if its best-known characters, Steve McDonald, is diagnosed with depression, said it was a "challenge" for the show.

"A particular challenge we faced is the audience's fear that the Steve they loved is gone for good," he said.

"We've got to find a way to tell the truth about this, warts and all, and entertain the audience."