World News – GB – Peter Barlow’s Coronation Street relapse defying the stigma of addiction


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When I first heard that Coronation Street screenwriters were taking Peter Barlow down the familiar path of an alcohol relapse, I felt real sadness over this fantasy soap character.

“Poor guy,” she yelled to the research team, “You’re really putting him in a squeeze, aren’t you?”

But this only shows the power with which soap should affect audiences – including someone like me working behind the scenes with screenplay teams to ensure responsible portrayals of mental health and addiction.

I witnessed Peter’s journey intermittently over many years. When I think of Peter Barlow, I think of him as the son of the legendary Ken Barlow and dad Simon. From being in an on / off relationship with gorgeous Carla Connor (well, let’s be honest – with most street women at some point or another!).

I think of him doing the dirty on Carla with Tina in (shock horror) the couple’s wedding night. I think of him as someone who runs a bookmaker, a bar, and as a taxi driver. I also think of him as someone with alcohol addiction.

The reason I mentioned all of the above is that soap, due to its long nature, is able to show many aspects to its personality. We have loved and hated Peter over the years for many reasons.

But first and foremost – it’s Peter Barlow – he’s not simply « an alcoholic ». This in and of itself goes a long way in challenging the stigma of addiction.

If soaps present personality and all we’ve seen of them is their behavior as a person in active addiction, all we see is disease. You cannot have sympathy for illness.

I personally hate addiction, it is a devastating disease that takes lives. But we shouldn’t feel that way for an addictive person – which is why it’s so important to follow the long-term lives of soap personalities.

I’m president of Newcastle’s addiction recovery charity, The Road to Recovery Trust. I’ve lived the experience of supporting friends and family struggling with addiction and saw with my own eyes how devastating it can be.

I’ve also seen the tremendous power of the recovery community – and the impact that peer support and 12-step recovery programs can have on change and, ultimately, lives saved.

But for people with addiction to reach recovery, there is a whole host of obstacles and barriers to making progress – not the least of which is shame and denial..

The 12-step programs are free to access and anyone with a desire to practice abstinence-based recovery is always welcome with arms. Even if you are still stuck in the agony of active addiction, the program and the community are there for you.

The problem is that the stigma of addiction still pervades society to this day, with many people believing that addiction is a choice rather than a complex and potentially fatal mental health problem that is often associated with trauma or other pathological diagnoses of mental health.. Often times, addiction is considered a form of self-medication – a way to ease the darkness, calm pain, or fill a void.

However, if you feel very shy about your addiction, you may have a hard time speaking out and asking for help. You might feel unable even to admit to yourself that you have a problem – which means you definitely won’t be looking for a recovery community. And the disease results in this, and the addiction gets worse.

But if we find ways to encourage empathy among the general public – through shows like Coronation Street that draw millions of viewers per episode – maybe we as viewers can start offering that sympathy to our neighbors, colleagues and friends? Maybe we can let people know that they have nothing to be ashamed of and that we are there for them?

Although soap is, of course, fictional, it affects what we think and feel about society. This is why soaps take their research very seriously.

I started working with drama series through Mind’s Media Consulting Service – Text Advice Team created by former journalist Jenny Reagan. However, series and dramas work with many different organizations depending on the theme of the story.

For example, you might see Mind and Samaritans working together in a story if suicide was portrayed. Likewise, you might see very specialized charities like Action on Postpartum Psychosis play a major role in detonating stereotypes (think Stacy’s harrowing story in EastEnders). And of course, our Road to Recovery Trust works with Coronation Street to portray addiction and recovery.

As individuals who have worked in this sector for some time, we can quickly discover potential problems that may arise in a story or script. However, we take this work very seriously, which is why there is more than one person working on a story.

In the case of the Peter story, I worked with other members of the community with live experience, in addition to our founder, Lionel Joyce, who has many years of professional and personal experience..

I think in this story, the team also worked with professionals who also had clinical experience. It guarantees authenticity – and we always have one eye on how the viewer responds to a story whether certain harmful behaviors are not addressed or have no consequences..

So, while I feel so sad about what my fictional friends are going through this week, I’m also glad Coronation Street shows every aspect of addiction – as well as every aspect of Peter.

If you need addiction support of any kind, see our 12-step Road to Recovery Trust information page for links to all relevant fellowship groups..

Includes exclusive content, spoilers, and pre-seen interviews on the site. Find out more »

Coronation Street, Carla Connor, Peter Barlow, Johnny Connor, Jenny Bradley, Adam Barlow, Soap Opera, Alison King, Sarah Platt, Ken Barlow

World News – GB – Peter Barlow Relapse on Coronation Street challenges the stigma of addiction


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