'EastEnders': Peggy Mitchell's Death Divides Suicide Charities

The Walford matriarch ended her life during highly emotional scenes.

18/05/2016 08:43 | Updated 18 May 2016

The handling of Peggy Mitchell's suicide in 'EastEnders' has divided leading charities. 

Fans of the BBC soap saw the Walford matriarch end her life at the conclusion of Tuesday night's (17 May) emotional episode, as she took an overdose, having been diagnosed with terminal cancer. 

Peggy Mitchell ended her life in Tuesday's 'EastEnders'

While viewers and Barbara Windsor's fellow cast members praised the powerful scenes, they have proved sparked debate among suicide awareness charities.

The Samaritans, who worked alongside soap bosses in helping them to plan Peggy's final scenes, praised 'EastEnders' for the way the controversial issue was handled. 

The helpline's media adviser, Lorna Fraser, told PA: "Suicide is a topic that carries risk when you cover it because research shows the risk if it's not handled properly, if it's sensationalised or romanticised, that it can influence imitative suicidal behaviour.

"There was a willingness to get this right so ['EastEnders'] got in touch with us quite early on when they were starting to develop Peggy's story and shared scripts with us which we gave advice on.

"Overall our advice is around sticking with the reality of suicide so, as you're seeing already in the episodes that have broadcast, the struggle that Phil in particular and Grant and other members of the family have with Peggy's decision... and the devastation that is caused to families around this issue."

Viewers saw Peggy take an overdose
Peggy had been diagnosed with terminal cancer
Pat Butcher appeared before Peggy in her final moments

A BBC spokesperson has since spoken out to insist the show did not "glamourise or romanticise the issue of suicide". 

"'EastEnders' has a rich history of tackling difficult social issues and Peggy's story is one of these," they said. 

"We have worked closely with leading medical experts and various charities, including the Samaritans, to ensure that this storyline is portrayed as sensitively and responsibly as possible.

"At no point do we glamourise or romanticise the issue of suicide, in fact we have taken great care to show the audience not only Peggy's perspective but the many different views of those around her."

Useful websites and helplines:
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@getconnected.org.uk
  • HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41
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