Emmerdale producer Laura Shaw has revealed that beloved character Paddy Kirk’s (Dominic Brunt) mental health storyline had been in the pipeline for years.
In emotional scenes this week, Paddy will attempt to take his own life, having returned to the village after disappearing without warning. After reading Paddy's letter, his father Bear Wolf (Joshua Richards), and best friend Marlon Dingle (Mark Charnock) are frantic as they lead the search.
Speaking at a recent press event, Shaw explained how this story came about, and why the team chose to put Paddy in the spotlight.
“The idea had been floating around for a few years, really. We knew, at Emmerdale, that we really wanted to shine a light on men’s mental health, and how middle-aged men are more likely to die by suicide than any other age group - staggering facts on that.
“But sometimes stories like this one, and was the case with this one, you can have a brilliant idea of a story that you want to play, but it can be years until you play it, if at all. It’s all about the characters; they’ve got to be in the right place at the right time, and it’s got to all be character-led, they’ve got to drive that story.
“So we had this idea a few years ago, and following the death of [Paddy’s] daughter Grace, and the breakdown of his marriage [to Chas], and then having spoken to Andy’s Man Club and Samaritans and looked at all the case studies, it felt like now was the right time that we could play this story with Paddy.”
Asked how the two above charities came into Emmerdale’s orbit, the producer said: “Obviously Samaritans are a well-known charity; they’ve worked with us on a number of occasions now on various storylines. They’re always our go-to people; we would never do a story like Paddy’s story without having their wonderful support and guidance.”
But Shaw revealed that she had a memorable first meeting with Andy’s Man Club. “It was a chance meeting, to be honest. We’d got this idea floating around in the summer ‘could we do this story with Paddy?’ and we were just in the initial stages of talking about it.
“Funnily enough it was myself - I was at a music event, and there were a bunch of Andy’s Man Club guys, they were all wearing the black t-shirts and handing out free wristbands. And obviously, being a Yorkshire lass, if there’s something going free I’m going to go and take it!
“I woke up the next morning, a little bit hungover, wearing one of their black wristbands, so I googled Andy’s Man Club and looked at the website; and I was just absolutely blown away by what an amazing charity they were, and I knew straight away: ‘these guys are going to be brilliant.’”
Asked about the charity’s involvement with this storyline, Neil Waine, a representative from Andy’s Man Club, explained: “[It was] a no-brainer for us, to be honest; really easy to be involved. Ultimately, it’s not about Andy’s Man Club, it’s not about Samaritans, it’s not about any of that. It’s about giving the idea to men that it is okay to talk; it’s okay to sit down and get this stuff off our chest and not bottle it up.
“The success stories on the back of this - it’s already happened. We did some stuff on local news, myself and Dom, and that same night we had emails in; one guy saying 'I’m going through the exact same stuff that Paddy’s going through, how can I get involved?' And he’s since been to a club.
“It’s not about how many men we can get through the door; it’s about getting that one man through the door. This has already achieved that whilst it’s only tickled the surface on the story.”
Emmerdale airs Paddy’s distressing decision on Thursday 2nd March and Friday 3rd March from 7pm on ITV.
Anyone affected by Paddy’s story can find help and support by visiting the Samaritans and Andy's Man Club websites, or by calling Samaritans' 24-hour hotline on 116 123. The NHS website also provides advice on how to seek help if you're experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Watch Emmerdale spoilers on the upcoming all-male episode