Emmerdale's Dominic Brunt has said he feels "privileged and honoured" to portray Paddy Kirk's heartbreaking suicide storyline.
In upcoming episodes, the village vet considers taking his own life in a heartbreaking turn with the ITV soap working closely with the Samaritans and Andy’s Man Club since August to ensure the scenes accurately "shine a light on male mental health", producer Laura Shaw said.
Speaking about collaborating with the charities and doing his own research into the subject, Dominic, 52, said: "Not only has it been inspirational, but it’s been pitch black dark and it’s made me appreciate what I have. I feel I have mental fortitude and my life kind of sails along here.
"Speaking to people where life has hit them so hard from left field, nobody has asked for this, it has been really shocking. Everyone that has come through the other side of it has always said: ‘I’m glad I spoke to someone, talking saved me’ … It’s been incredible really.
"I felt a huge sense of responsibility on my shoulders to try and get it right so I’ve done my best, but I felt very looked-after and very involved and it made me trust the whole process."
During Thursday's heartbreaking hour-long episode, Paddy's father Bear will discover a letter which has everyone scrambling to find him.
While another hour-long special on Friday will see Rhona Goskirk find the missing bolt gun from the vet surgery as Paddy's loved ones hope they can find him in time.
On filming the emotional scenes, Dominic said: "I just tried my best. I couldn’t let myself even open a little door to the black dogs that these people experience. I was pretending, the scripts and the dialogue was so good and the journey and the curve was so clear that it was almost easy to do.
"However, the emotion that you had to visit had to be shaken off almost immediately, and I felt supported. I’m not suffering like that, I’m a stupid actor with a script in their hands. However, I was privileged and honoured to serve that story. But it didn’t touch the sides for me because I know what it’s like for someone to really really go through that."
Dominic also said he didn’t want to “squander the opportunity” to give the subject a platform among audiences and encourage men not to “suffer in silence”.
He said: “I hope as many people watch it as possible. I think we’ve got the perfect medium in soap to give this subject matter a platform. I hope we told the story as clearly as possible because every single situation is unique, every single person that goes through this is unique.
“They’ve got their own set of circumstances that have led them to this pinnacle of depression and I hope we told Paddy’s story as clearly as possible.”
Lorna Fraser from the Samaritans said the storyline could be “throwing a lifeline out there” for viewers who may be feeling a similar way.
She said: “I think that soaps have a really unique opportunity to tell stories like this and tell the whole story … so that viewers can can be watching and engaging with it with a wide angle lens.
“Research evidence backs up this theory that showing these kinds of stories can actually save lives and has been linked to falls in suicide rates.
“I can’t overstate the importance of equipping story producers to feel enabled to tackle these sensitive issues. Soaps have the opportunity to tell the whole story, it can really make a difference on showing people the signs to look out for that might indicate somebody’s struggling to cope, and how you might approach a conversation about this.
“Not everybody wants to sit down and read a story about this, or watch a public education campaign. So soap storylines are a really different way of reaching wider audiences.”
If you have been affected by this story, you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org.
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