Lily's death episodes in Hollyoaks will change lives – they were right to do it

Hollyoaks had a tricky task when embarking on the journey of a self harm story. They had to ensure it wasn’t overly triggering so had to use language and themes sensitively. They had to avoid giving ideas to vulnerable viewers, which is why at no point was Lily shown to actually self harm directly on screen, it was always implied.

And they also had to make sure they didn’t romantacise self harm in that Lily got the love and attention from it and then suddenly got better. Basically, doing that might have implied that self harm works which it most certainly doesn’t.

It’s an agonising trap – a cycle of addiction with a risk higher than I ever knew when I did it. Hollyoaks had to juggle all of this when deciding to kill Lily off and this is one of those soap moments that will stay with viewers forever.

Much like Aidan’s death from Coronation Street, soaps are recognising that they have to sometimes tell a realistic and brutal ending to a story like this rather than allowing a solution to every character.

Because that would be saying that we have beaten mental illness and the fight is over. Sure, we have made progress so we have to keep telling the stories of recovery of Scott Drinkwell and Cleo McQueen.

But we have a long way to go and can’t pretend that everything has an easy fix or, even worse, imply that something as complex as self harm which is so personal and different for everyone in its grips is something trivial.

It robbed Lily of a bright future. A young, kind hearted, intelligent, shining individual with a career and happiness all within her grasp. She needed help. But it came too late and, like the terrifying statistics around mental health and around male suicides for example, something has to be done.

Media like television, particularly soap, has a duty to its audience to be both entertaining and respectfully honest about what is happening in the world.

Lily’s story will resonate and open that difficult discussion at the water coolers and in the playground about self harm. On average 1 in 3 people who contract sepsis do not survive and 10% of sepsis cases are a result of self harm.

Yet again, Hollyoaks has bravely refused to take the easy option here and has opened itself up to inevitable calls that by killing Lily, they are sending out the wrong messages.

But in showing the mistakes made by Lily and those around us, they are helping us to see that we have the power to change ourselves and not make the same ones. Ask someone if they’re okay and then ask them again. REALLY ask them.

Bear in mind, everyone has a battle they are fighting, so be kind.

A scar on an arm hides more agony than can physically be manifested. And whether through sepsis in Lily’s case or through the progression of depression or other mental health conditions that often accompany self harm, it kills.

We need to be talking about this. Constantly. Bravo to Hollyoaks for once again opening up that important discussion. And well done for being bold when we need to be bolder than ever in our approach to the prevalent disease of mental health conditions eroding those around us.

We all know a Lily, a Scott or a Cleo. More than one most likely. And 1 in 4 of us ARE one.

Instead of taking to Twitter to bemoan your favourite fictional character being killed off or accusing the show of dramatising a mental health issue, let’s take stock and think first about why it was necessary.

Lily HAD to die for us to have this discussion properly. The character’s legacy will be felt far harder now and will change lives. It has already gone some ways to altering mine.

Lily may be gone, but the issue, thanks to this devastating outcome, is far from forgotten.

You can vote for Lauren and all things Hollyoaks at the British Soap Awards, for which the longlist has now opened.

If you would like further information, support or guidance, you can contact Mind on 0300 123 3393 or by visiting their website.

You can find out more about sepsis by visiting the website of the UK Sepsis Trust.


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