Danny-Boy Hatchard 'honoured' to take on EastEnders suicide storyline

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EastEnders actor Danny-Boy Hatchard said he was honoured to take on the hard-hitting storyline which sees his character pushed to the brink of suicide in the run up to his exit from the show.

Viewers have watched his character Lee, the son of Mick Carter (played by Danny Dyer) - a man he aspires to be like - fall into a downward spiral following a string of events over the last few weeks, including bullying at work and having to resort to asking for a loan to keep finances afloat.

Mick and Lee Carter
Mick Carter and Lee (Jack Barnes/BBC)

Following his arrest for his involvement in the raid at The Queen Vic pub and his wife, Whitney (played by Shona McGarty) wondering if she is pregnant, Lee has reached a breaking point that will culminate in him contemplating suicide in Friday's episode.

Talking about the storyline, Danny-Boy said he was not worried or nervous about tackling it.

Danny-Boy Hatchard as Lee Carter
Danny-Boy Hatchard as Lee Carter (BBC)

He told the Press Association: "Of course it is a lot of pressure but I think I'm more honoured than anything, because someone has to do it.

"I think it's become such a common thing, not just people who suffer with mental illness, also people who don't understand it and form a stigma around it.

"I think that kind of drive to abolish that stigma and to encourage people who are suffering to talk and to know that it is okay, the way that they are feeling... It's a responsibility I'm happy to take."

Whitney and Lee Carter (Jack Barnes/BBC)
Whitney and Lee Carter (Jack Barnes/BBC)

The BBC One soap's writers and Danny-Boy, 25, worked closely with Samaritans on the storyline.

Samaritans spokeswoman Lorna Fraser praised the soap for highlighting the issue of mental health.

She said: "Soaps can do such an amazing job in helping educate the wider public around the issue of mental health problems and how things can escalate.

"Through the character of Lee in his story, what is shown is all of these pressures mount up and it's the cumulative effect of these things that really start to get him down.

"And what has exacerbated that part for Lee, which is a common issue particularly for men, is keeping it to himself, wearing that mask, keeping it a secret, pretending everything is going okay and adding to all of this pressure then is him having to bear all of that by himself."

Danny-Boy Hatchard and Kellie Bright as Linda and Lee Carter in EastEnders
Danny-Boy Hatchard and Kellie Bright as Linda and Lee Carter in EastEnders (BBC)

Danny-Boy said EastEnders should be tackling serious issues such as this as part of major character storylines because it is "more than just an entertainment show".

He said: "We're a show that ultimately wants to have an effect on the public in a positive way, because this is an issue for people of all sexes, of all cultures - middle, upper class - it's an issue that needs to be tackled."

Over the weeks he has been approached by people suffering from depression as well as family members and friends affected or who know someone dealing with it.

"It's important to bring an issue like this to the forefront because I feel like we should be raising as much of a debate as we can," he said.

Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty) and Lee Carter (Danny-Boy Hatchard) in EastEnders (BBC)
Whitney and Lee (BBC)

"I've been seeing a lot on social media, people saying Lee is miserable, Lee needs to man up, sad things such as Lee needs to do the unthinkable, and it's raising a lot of debate with people who have suffered or know people who have suffered.

"I sat there and read messages and it's a real shame, these people who have those thoughts towards Lee as a worthless human being. I worry that if he was a real person, people like this would dangerously make him feel a lot worse, so I feel like EastEnders should be tackling it in a way where we educate these people who are not as aware as they could possibly be and that can only ever have a positive effect.

Anyone affected by Lee's story or seeking help can contact Samaritans free of charge from any phone on 116123 or find the details for your local branch at www.samaritans.org.