Fenella Woolgar speaks candidly about mental health for Call the Midwife role

Stephanie Chase
·3-min read
Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Call the Midwife actor Fenella Woolgar has spoken candidly about the stigma that still exists surrounding mental health.

In episode three of the BBC drama's 10th series, Fenella's character Sister Hilda met a young woman named Louise Wrigley who was initially thought to be pregnant. Tests soon showed that Louise wasn't pregnant but she still has crippling stomach pains, blood in her urine, and blood in her vomit.

Sister Hilda later discovered a bloody razor blade and realised the truth – that Louise created her own physical symptoms because of a mental illness.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Speaking to Radio Times, Fenella spoke about the stigma surrounding mental health that existed in Britain in the 1950s and how she believes a similar stigma still exists today.

"I think there absolutely was a stigma, particularly in Britain," she said. "You were supposed to be resilient, keep troubles private, keep calm and carry on. Stoicism was the order of the day – from public schools to working men’s pubs.

"Obviously recently there has been a greater awareness, and a drive to drag mental health into the open and normalise the difficulties that so many of us experience, but I think there is still stigma around it.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Related: Call the Midwife star reveals how the pandemic made series 10 more "accurate"

"There is tremendous pressure on young people to look, feel and act a certain way – there’s a huge disconnect between the airbrushed lives of people publishing on social media and the real daily struggles everyone faces."

She continued: "This can lead to huge problems, I think. There is a worrying trend in young male suicide which we are simply not tackling.

"But there are hopeful things too – I think people feel more emboldened to call out unhealthy attitudes or practices in the working environment which could be damaging and practices like yoga and mindfulness becoming mainstream show a shift towards a wish for more balance in people’s lives."

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

We may only a few episodes into season 10, but there's plenty more to come as Call The Midwife season 11 about to begin filming.

And that's not all. Last month, the BBC confirmed the show will be running until at least 2024 with seasons 13 and 14 being commissioned.

Call the Midwife airs on Sunday nights at 8pm on BBC One.

We would encourage anyone who identifies with the topics raised in this article to reach out. Organisations who can offer support include Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org) or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to visit mentalhealth.gov or the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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