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CNWL Psychologist helped to develop Eastenders' rare mental illness storyline


CNWL Psychologist helped to develop Eastenders' rare mental illness storyline

CNWL's Dr Chrissy Jayarajah watches EastEnders at work, but there's a reason.

Chrissy is a Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist in Hillingdon - part of our newly expanded Perinatal Mental Health Service.

She was involved in the Stacey Slater story that culminated last Christmas with Stacey on the roof, grasping her child and becoming very psychotic. It was very dramatic but accurate too.

Chrissy was a guest at the Mind Media Awards on Monday 13 November 2017. She was invited along for her work. Hollyoaks walked away with the prize that day but the Stacey Slater storyline (the previous winner) still resonates and Chrissy uses the story with medical trainees.

Stacey Slater is based on a real patient story, Eve Canavan, who with Mind met the EastEnders script writers. Chrissy worked with them both to create a teaching workshop for students, trainee doctors, nurses and midwives.

Chrissy said: "About 1 in 10 mothers will experience post or ante-natal depression. Stacey's story was unusual; psychosis affects perhaps 1 in 1,000 mothers, however the character has bipolar and for people with bipolar disorder it's much more common. That said, this dramatic portrayal - accurate down to the mother baby unit flowers - has done more for raising awareness of perinatal mental health than any number of leaflets or pamphlets. Demand for information last Christmas crashed Mind's helpline."

Chrissy took an initiative with the Royal College of Psychiatrists Trainee Committee's Conference to run a workshop in 2016 titled: "What happened to Stacy Slater? How mental health is portrayed in the media."

In a straw poll 90 per cent of attending GPs and trainees had come across patients with post or antenatal depression but only 10 per cent had training. The workshop has been repeated numerous times, including at other trusts.

Chrissy explains what happens at the workshop:

"We show clips from EastEnders and then discuss it. The workshops are very effective because the discussions are really good. The clips are distressing to see but maybe that helps the trainees concentrate. You need to remember that a trainee medic, in six years' training will have just six weeks on mental illness and only one morning on perinatal mental health! Dr Madda Miele - who leads the CNWL service - is in discussion with the London Deanery about this balance and in the mean time I am very open to GPs and medical students shadowing me in the service to see what it's really like- and many people do. Stacey's story fictionalises a real case study and this story has raised perinatal's profile like nothing else and that's an achievement!"

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