Hollyoaks star Lauren McQueen has spoken out for the first time about filming the show's upcoming self-harm episode.
The actress's character Lily Drinkwell has been hurting herself in secret over the past few months, but the storyline is about to take a surprising new turn as her schoolmates Yasmine Maalik (Haiesha Mistry) and Peri Lomax (Ruby O'Donnell) get involved.
Early next week, Yasmine and Peri discover Lily's secret when they catch her self-harming at school.
As we've previously revealed, this leads up to a special "Three Mothers, Three Daughters" episode which focuses on the characters of Lily, Yasmine, Peri, Diane, Misbah and Leela – exploring how they all cope when Lily's secret looks set to spread further.
Speaking about the episode, Lauren revealed: "Filming the self-harm episode was a challenge and a big responsibility, but I am so glad I had the opportunity to do it.
"It was great to work with Haiesha and Ruby on something so powerful and emotional, and our director Tracey Rooney and the crew were so supportive.
"This episode is so important to show our viewers because it focuses on the different perspectives of a mother-daughter relationship and the reality of a struggling teenager.
"Our intention is to highlight the consequences that self-harm can have on a person's life and their family. We want to bring awareness and encourage people to talk about their struggles openly to family members or charities like The Samaritans and Mind."
Revealing her own personal research, she continued: "Before I was given the scripts for Lily's self-harm storyline, I had the chance to work with researchers, The Samaritans and Mind.
"I met a young woman who had experienced self-harm, which gave me a real insight into what Lily was going to go through.
"Playing the role of Lily has already been a whirlwind. As an actress, it's been amazing to go on such an emotional journey and I hope the younger viewers can understand what Lily is going through."
Lily's storyline forms part of Hollyoaks' powerful #DontFilterFeelings campaign, which has also included emotional on-screen plots for Scott Drinkwell and newcomer Damon Kinsella.
Lorna Fraser, Samaritans' media adviser, commented: "Soaps have a vital role to play in raising public awareness of sensitive issues, such as self-harm and suicide. Carefully developed storylines like Lily's can be very powerful in engaging viewers, who may be suffering in silence, encouraging them to speak out and seek help.
"Covering self-harm in drama carries an element of risk, therefore it's really important that expert guidance is sought. Samaritans has been working in this field for over two decades to encourage programmes to cover these issues responsibly.
"Given the sensitivities surrounding this topic, we were pleased that Hollyoaks approached us with their plans to run this storyline. Hollyoaks' writers and researchers have worked extremely hard with us over the past year to make these episodes realistic and engaging, while making sure that any risk has been limited.
"Viewers have watched Lily struggle with bereavement, academic pressure, bullying, relationship issues and significant scarring following a traumatic car accident.
"Lily's story highlights the potential dangers of not dealing with difficult feelings and the importance of reaching out for help when we're struggling to cope. Viewers have seen the impact of this escalate for Lily.
"We would encourage any viewers who have been touched by Lily's story to contact Samaritans' helpline. People can call us for free from any phone at any time on 116 123 (this number will not appear on your phone bill) or email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch of Samaritans."
Mind has also released a statement on the episode, explaining: "Mind supports the way that Hollyoaks is using this storyline to raise awareness about self-harm in young adults.
"We know that in England, people aged 16 to 24 are the most likely to self-harm compared with other age groups, and that over 25 per cent of young women this age have self-harmed at some point during their lifetime.
"It's a serious issue that is difficult to portray sensitively on screen, and we're glad that Hollyoaks is going about it in a responsible manner. We hope that the storyline will encourage any viewers who may be struggling with similar issues to reach out for help and support."
Hollyoaks airs the special episode on Tuesday (October 17) at 7pm on E4 and on Wednesday (October 18) at 6.30pm on Channel 4.
Digital Spy Soap Scoop video – hit play below for all the latest Hollyoaks gossip, as Lily's self-harm secret is revealed and Leela loses her temper with Zack.
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