Dan Hagley (Darrell Makepeace)

Lawrence (Lol) Butterfield has been advising us on the current storyline with Darrell (pictured). A qualified nurse, Lol has worked in the mental health field for 30 years and is the author of the book Sticks and Stones, which aims to tackle the stigma and discrimination of mental health. 
My work advising Darrell on his depression storyline gave me much pleasure. If pleasure is the right word to describe such a tragic and frustrating turn of events for Darrell?  My role is to attempt to provide realism and sensitivity to his plight. However this is not always possible when people’s behaviour affects those around them in such devastating ways. 
Welcome to the world of mental illness. Any of us could experience this at any time in our lives. In fact statistically one in four of us will.  
Darrell may be struggling at the moment but this will not last forever. If the right help is made available, the prognosis is good for depression. We have to be willing to accept help and not stigmatise ourselves by shunning the support offered. We must also try to remain hopeful. Without hope we have nothing.
Sadly many men in particular feel ashamed to be open and honest when mentally unwell. They see this as a slight on their masculinity. This is why we have twice as many women as men visiting their GPs for mental health conditions, even though men experience the same number. 
Denial
Many men go into denial  when faced with mental illness and may use alcohol or illicit substances as a negative coping strategy. Mental illness in any form not only effects the person but those close to them. Darrell’s case is no exception. People can be left feeling helpless and at a loss as to what to do next. 
If the person with depression does not seem to be making any progress, people can then feel as if they are to blame. Mental illness takes no prisoners. It is indiscriminate.
We should all remember this when judging those with any kind of mental illness. 
I speak as a qualified mental health nurse with over 30 years of clinical experience. I have also suffered from depression so have 'lived experience'. I therefore speak as the nurse and the patient. 
Darrell has clearly hit rock bottom. He now needs to try to climb back out of the pit of despair he finds himself in. This is never easy. His self esteem and confidence have been shattered, his thinking will have become dysfunctional, even paranoid. His window on the world around him differs greatly from that of others. 
To empathise with Darrell, we have to try to see the world through his eyes as he views it now, and support and help him to try to think and see things differently. He has experienced loss and betrayal, as he sees it. 
Empathy
He doesn't need sympathy, but empathy. If Darrell were helpless at a bottom of a well, we would try to encourage him to climb out, maybe even help him. This is what empathy is. Sympathy would be to look down on him crying, becoming helpless ourselves. This approach helps nobody. 
While Darrell will ultimately have to take responsibility for his own actions, those around him must not disempower him from doing this. Once his mood has lifted and he can see more clearly, the recovery process begins. Unlike a broken arm or leg it is difficult to place a timespan on how long his recovery will take. Mental health differs from physical health in that  many other external factors can all impinge on any progress made. 
All those who care can do now is be there for him. If they experienced the same despair, they would expect no less from him.
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Picture shows Dan Hagley (Darrell Makepeace)

Read an interview with Dan (April 2013)

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  • Comment number 84. Posted by barwick_green

    on 28 Nov 2013 23:56



    So what did the thieving bullying pathetic wretch think was going on in the barn (he'd previously scouted and stolen the keys for and grossly abused the trust of his kindly employers)? Crufts had come to to the countryside?

    Darrell is a disgrace to the human race and deserves not one iota of sympathy, understanding or compassion.

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  • Comment number 83. Posted by Nemo399

    on 27 Nov 2013 12:23

    To be fair to the Sws, they didn't actually write a line in which Darrell said "who cares if dogs tear themselves to pieces as long as I get paid". What they actually wrote was a scene in which he was asked to 'clear up' , discovered the badly injured and dead dogs (having not previously known he was abetting dog-fighting) and threw up on air (lovely--NOT-supper-time listening.) Then they added a line (later) where he referred to a 'lovely, gentle Staffie' that he'd owned as a child. But it was still very clunky and I agree with all those who say that Darrell is entirely the wrong choice for a story line about depression!

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  • Comment number 82. Posted by joe

    on 26 Nov 2013 15:33

    > others we already know and care about could plausibly have been given a storyline involving financial problems, family break up and consequent depression

    Exactly. Ed and Emma would have been obvious candidates for such a SL, given their financial problems a year ago. (Though it didn't help when all credibility was abandoned in favour of melodrama when it was decided "not to go down the benefits route".)

    The constant introduction - and almost immediate departure - of new characters for a single SL undermines the very nature of a programme such as TA; it destroys the sense of "eavesdropping" on everyday life in the village. A great part of the pleasure in listening comes from anticipation and speculation - "wait till X hears about that…". That can only work if the characters are known - and TA is particularly strong in this area, with many characters who have been developed over /decades/. We know - or think we know - how they will react in given circumstances. Occasionally, just as in RL - they surprise us. When handled properly, this gives us a deeper insight into the character; if done exceptionally well, it reveals an aspect of the character that was present, but dormant, all along.

    Such possibilities are lost if the SL depends on a "blow-in", and that has been the case all too frequently of late: Keith Horrobin and "Farmageddon", Paul, Celia (what exactly was the point of introducing her - apart from a bit of tabloid coverage?), Ted (remember him?) and now Darrell. We don't care about them because they're ciphers - in Paul's case, he might as well have been /two/ new characters, so unrecognizable was he from his previous appearances.

    Darrell has been presented as an untrustworthy character from day one. Subsequent actions, especially the harassment of the Walters and the dog fights, have shown him to be particularly selfish and callous - "who cares if a couple of old dears get hurt, or dogs tear each other to pieces, as long as I get paid?". Suddenly, though, he is part of an "issue" so we are expected to feel sympathy, or at least empathy. This might have worked had it been developed properly in the programme; it certainly won't if the only clue we have to his behaviour is a spoiler in a blog.

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  • Comment number 81. Posted by Dragonfly

    on 26 Nov 2013 11:02

    I loathe this storyline because I have always loathed Darrell. I think it has been a mistake to enlarge the number of characters so much. We have to wait months to hear from established characters and inevitably some new listeners fail to recognise them because it's been so long since they've last been on - e.g. Caroline and Oliver.

    Storylines are introduced and done to death for weeks on end. Then they disappear and nobody refers to them again. I was utterly fed up with the 'Oh Lillian!' Oh Paul!' phase earlier this year. Now we're in the 'I don't understand' phase. Darrell is a fictional character. In real life I would be sympathetic to someone with serious mental health problems. However, in this case I find myself all too aware that he is a figment of the production team's imagination and I cannot for the life of me think why they are filling up so much of their 75 minutes a week with this tedious and drawn out storyline. As others have said so eloquently, Darrell is such an unattractive character, and so new (in Archers terms) that his travails are not likely to evoke much sympathy. We have characters in the village we've known for most of their and our lives who have established mental health problems - Pat, Mike, Helen, Ed, to name but four. They and plenty of others we already know and care about could plausibly have been given a storyline involving financial problems, family break up and consequent depression. Why instead push this needy, whining, criminal blow in to the forefront? I'm with Jill - get rid of him, as fast as possible. And then let's get back to change-counting and the Christmas show, with a judicious sprinkling of more serious stories that emerge out of the established characters developed slowly and carefully over decades. That is the Archers' greatest strength and it is currently massively underused.

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  • Comment number 80. Posted by BVFL33

    on 25 Nov 2013 18:40

    Well said JOSP1 Whatever is wrong with Darrel he clearly is having a breakdown and has many issues .Low self esteem alone is awful but he has other problems .OK his marriage may well have ended .Like say 1 in every 3 ,.. but I used to cringe when Elona who was Mrs Smoothy to all went on at Darrel( behind closed doors) telling him what a failure he was .What a poor father if one daughter didnt get her scooter and the other music lessons etc etc .As Bruno Bettelheim said "Tell a man ofter enough he is stupid and he will believe it "........For all who keep saying this isnt real life .It is meant to reflect issues of the day ......and the SWS are doing a job serving us with some rather unsavoury home truths as to how we react to the problems of many ......

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  • Comment number 79. Posted by joe

    on 25 Nov 2013 16:10

    > In life our knowledge of others doesn't always start at the beginning

    True - but this isn't life, it's fiction. Every aspect of Darrell's existence is entirely dictated by the SWs' choices. They have chosen to portray him from before his first appearance in the programme as an habitual criminal: he was doing time for handling stolen goods - a crime that does not under normal circumstances warrant a custodial sentence. Since then, he has repeatedly fallen back into old habits, the harassment of the Walters and involvement in arranging dog fights being just the most egregious examples. In other words nothing in his portrayal shows him to be a character for whom I would expect to feel anything but contempt. However, if I read this blog I am supposed to change my view because he is suffering from depression; clearly, my lack of empathy makes me a Bad Person. Well, sorry, but it doesn't work like that - the first rule of critical theory is the supremacy of the text. Anything not explicitly supported by the text is speculation. In this case, the text is the programme *as broadcast*; suggestions from other sources - including this blog - have no validity unless supported by evidence *in the programme*. I can't comment on Darrell's mental health because he hasn't been sufficiently established as a character - "Normal For Darrell" is an unknown quantity, so it's impossible to tell whether his current behaviour is aberrant.

    By all means blog about issues raised in the programme, but not *before* they have been raised - if nothing else it is a massive spoiler. If the new editorial style is going to be "next month's issue will be ————" I for one will soon become an ex-listener.

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  • Comment number 78. Posted by JOSP01

    on 24 Nov 2013 21:50

    Having heard tonight's episode, I am fervently hoping that Alastair takes Darryl back to The Stables, settles him down in a quiet corner and then gets on the phone to Alan to come round so they can launch a joint attack on the medical profession and insist someone comes out on a home visit as a matter of urgency - it sounds like the house guest has had/is having a breakdown and needs professional help. I'd not put it beyond a riled Alistair to paint a vivid picture of what might happen if two professional men (am assuming vicars are regarded as such) trying to help a damaged individual happened to mention to the local press that they had been forced to drag the person in question to the local A&E and wait a number of hours...

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  • Comment number 77. Posted by fernfire

    on 24 Nov 2013 16:37

    I never normally comment, but I'm saddened by the harshness of most of the responses to the piece by Lol Butterfield about Darrell's depression. OK, he's only a character, but I'm sure we all know someone a bit like Darrell, or have been there ourselves - mental health is a spectrum, and we're all somewhere on it. Yes, Darrell is an unappealing character - so what? Doesn't everyone deserve the opportunity to realise their potential? I think the writing is bit simplistic - painting Shula as the well-meaning do-gooder unable to recognise the needs of her own family and Alastair as the rational clear-seeing caring one doesn't really fit with their respective back-stories, but I salute the attempt by the writers to tackle that most irritating of human beings to know, someone who expects other people to sort out their problems for them and who doesn't seem to have any self-awareness. That could be any one of us, if our situation were different. I'm intrigued to see where this storyline goes next - it's a lot more interesting than Joe's broken wrist, Brian's 70th and yet another row between the Grundy siblings.

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  • Comment number 76. Posted by Mieteka

    on 24 Nov 2013 09:16

    Dormouse - Darrell has a conscience, he just choses to ignore it most of the time. He also has a history of criminal behaviour and keeps returning to illegal activities. he might pay lip-service to feeling guilty about his misdeeds, but that doesn't stop him! Dogs *did* fight, Joyce *did* break her hip and Arthur *did* die.
    Also, Darrell gave his own family a miserable time, with them no soomer being settled than having to move *again*. There is every indication that Elona would have ended the marriage in any case.
    However, the sudden return to non-impaired cognitive function on Friday, plus Darrell's sly cunningness regarding reporting any income strongly suggests he is a con-merchant. AS he hasn't actually visited a doctor, there is no way this can be explained away by medication - which normally takes at least a couple of weeks to kick in. You are not alone in having MH troubles - many of the people commenting on the SL also have experience of MH issues and find his behaviour totally atypical. and insulting. More than that, they consider the character to be an absolutely appalling example of someone with MH issues and gives a wholly negative impact that does immeasurable harm
    Do I actually care if this weasely chap is an alcoholic, a con-man or has some sort of issue? No, not really. Darrell blames everyone except himself. He leeches on to Shula and starts to tear their family apart. He pays lip-service to his own family. Here's hoping he departs from Ambridge asap.

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  • Comment number 75. Posted by Dormouse

    on 23 Nov 2013 14:35

    Joe @72 - In life our knowledge of others doesn't always start at the beginning. I'm not saying it will convince you to change your mind, but separate from the moral judgments for a moment, consider Darrell's cognitive function.

    When he arrived in Ambridge he was a skilled carpenter. The work he did in Fawcett Magna was praised by both Paul and Lilian. Matt was very happy with the work that Darrell did for him. You might rightly say that Matt was buttering him up for the dodgy and ultimately evil tasks that Matt strong-armed Darrell into later on. But Matt wouldn't have employed someone who couldn't do the work. There were a few asides on a couple of occasions which suggested that Darrell's fellow workers might have resented Darrell's professionalism.

    Fast forward to this week and Darrell can't take in the contents of written text. He sometimes struggles to remember what he's been told two minutes ago. He loses his benefits because of his confusion. He doesn't understand the basic principle of the housing bond, despite it being explained to him repeatedly. He needs Alistair's help to fill in forms and to go into the benefits office with him to help him understand what the benefits officer is saying.

    How do we account for the mismatch between the skills that Darrell displayed when he arrived in the village and these cognitive difficulties? My interpretation is that there's been a decline in his cognitive function, linked with his mental illness (whatever it is).

    But then I've experienced that decline myself, so I can understand how plausible it is. (For me, I get lucid episodes, take medication and do meditation, which is how I'm able to keep up with The Archers, read your comments and reply. Those are rare moments. There are also times when I can't understand how to buy a pint of milk. Luckily the rest of the time is in between those extremes. My guess is that Darrell is up-and-down too.)

    If on the other hand you think that Darrell is an evil parasite, you either have to argue that he was never competent in the first place, or that since he's been homeless he's been putting on a damn good act.

    Maybe.

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