Soap fans have seen former soldier Lee (played by Danny-Boy Hatchard) struggle to cope with his life in Albert Square as the pressure mounts on him both at work and at home, leading him to suffer from depression.
The storyline took a dark turn last month as Lee was seen attempting to commit suicide before he was stopped and helped by a parking attendant after she came to his aid.
In an exclusive interview with Expres.co.uk, Samaritans media adviser Lorna Fraser hailed the BBC soap for raising awareness of the subject and handling the storyline “sensitively”.
She explained: “We do know that people call us, having been touched by a programme’s content, and that can only really be a good thing.
“For some that can be a lifeline, making that first step and speaking out about it. It’s something that we know can be a real barrier for men.”
Lorna worked alongside the writers and researchers on EastEnders to put together the script after they approached the Samaritans last year. There was then an ongoing process over the course of a couple of months as the script was developed.
She even attended and advised script read-throughs and the special rehearsals that had been set up specifically for the Lee Carter story.
Danny-Boy Hatchard as Lee Carter in EastEnders
Lee Carter is struggling to cope in EastEnders
For some that can be a lifeline, making that first step and speaking out about it
Samaritans media adviser Lorna Fraser
“[EastEnders] are aware of the risks of covering suicide and I have to say they are very good always when covering this topic,” Lorna said.
As well as the risks of focusing on the topics of male suicide and depression, the programme makers were also advised by the organisation on how they could incorporate “helpful messages” into the storyline.
The charity was even mentioned in the soap after Lee’s father Mick (played by Danny Dyer) found a Samaritans’ card among his son's possessions.
Mick Carter confronts his son Lee in EastEnders
Lorna stressed the importance of filmmakers and programme makers working with charities like Samaritans in order to show suicide realistically and responsibly on screen.
“The important thing is that it’s really important to get expert advice when you’re covering that and we feel that EastEnders handled it really sensitively,” she said.
“For instance, they’ve really accurately portrayed how through Lee’s experience, he’s gone through to gradually reach this point,” she explained, saying that it was a “culmination” of factors that pushed him to the edge and reflected the “reality of suicide”.
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The Samaritans adviser also quashed the myth that by broaching the taboo subject it would make someone feel worse or suicidal.
“Crucially it’s important that it’s handled sensibly and responsibly and actually bringing that topic up can be the right thing to do,” Lorna said and encouraged people not to “suffer in silence”.
Samaritans has a 24-hour helpline and can be contacted via email or text. The charity also has branches across Britain that people can visit if they wish to talk to someone face-to-face.
For more information about the Samaritans call 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org
EastEnders continues on BBC One tomorrow night at 7.30pm.