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Me, Mental Health & Daytime Drama Doctors

Nasreen Ahmed

Script Editor - BBC Doctors

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Nasreen Ahmed, Script Editor - BBC Doctors introduces the forthcoming week of mental health themed episodes.

Doctors has always been proud to tackle difficult subjects, although naturally this can be a little challenging within the remit of daytime television and the expectations of the audience in terms of what is acceptable to view during the day. But over the last couple of years we have successfully tackled child grooming, homelessness and gang culture to name a few – all done tastefully for a daytime audience. We cover a wide range of issues – both medical and non-medical through our 'story of the day’ element within each episode. Doctors strives to explore real-life scenarios that people can relate to - situations that they may come across in their own day-to-day lives, offering advice and guidance on how to reach out for help.

Talking about mental health is something we have always done well at Doctors but this is the first time we have devoted a set of six consecutive episodes to air around Mental Health Awareness Week in May. A combination of hard-hitting stories aim to reflect many aspects of mental health and the impact on sufferers and their loved ones. We touch upon a number of things such as the strain mental health call outs can put on the emergency services as well as introducing an array of characters who each have their own story to tell. In addition, there are some ongoing strands including one about a receptionist doing voluntary work at an Old People’s Home, another about a much-loved GP experiencing severe anxiety and one showing a character struggling with his mother’s dementia. There is a special outreach bus that goes out at night to assist vulnerable people on the streets. And we feature a young man in foster care who may possibly be an undiagnosed case of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

This is a subject that is very close to my own heart. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder a few years ago giving me first-hand experience of how difficult it can be to manage the situation and the importance of reaching out for support – both personal and professional. Inspired partly by my own journey, I wanted to storyline a strong set of episodes with our regular characters at the heart of them. I was particularly invested in the many stigmas about mental health within ethnic minorities. As a Muslim and someone who grew up within the wider Asian community, I have first-hand knowledge of how difficult it can be to encourage people to open up about mental health issues and reach out for the right support. So, one of our stories is about a young Asian man who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Through this character we explore the importance of reaching out for help and encouraging others to do the same. We highlight that this man and his condition is not ‘a problem’. It is more about looking at the wider community/family and their feelings.

We certainly aren’t intending to conquer all the myths and concerns around mental health by the end of our special week but if we can use our regular characters and our ‘world’ to help viewers understand a little better and reach out for any support that is out there and needed – then we will have achieved what we set out to do.  In terms of future challenging stories on Doctors – we will continue to do what we have always done and tackle subjects of interest as and when the opportunity presents itself.

Special mental health episodes of Doctors will air on BBC One at 1.45pm from the 8-15 May 2018

Nasreen Ahmed is Script Editor - BBC Doctors

Visit the Doctors website all next week to see new short films featuring the cast related to mental health:

  • Monday 7th May: Mental health problems by Suli Breaks (spoken word artist) performed by Ashley Rice
  • Tuesday 8th May: Just Because by Adam Stones (a local poet to Birmingham) performed by Ashley Rice
  • Wednesday 9th May: Waving not Drowning by Stevie Smith – read by Chris Walker
  • Thursday 10th May: An extract from Boy with a Top Knot by Sathnam Sanghera – read by Adrian Lewis Morgan
  • Friday 11th May: The Stress Bucket – a demonstration of how everyone can suffer from stress and breakdowns – by Sarah Moyle as Valerie
  • Monday 14th May It was Not Death by Emily Dickinson – read by Elisabeth Dermot Walsh
  • Tuesday 15th May Glitter – Laura Rollins (a poem written by an anxiety sufferer supplied through the charity Mind)

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