I’ve been a fan of EastEnders since they discovered Reg Cox’s lifeless body in 1985. I love it but have never felt more like throwing a brick at the TV than I did after last night’s episode.
Dinah, a character with MS, killed herself, after weeks of misery and despair caused by her situation. Despite having a young daughter, she presumably took an overdose and ended her life.
I’m so cross about this as I feel the BBC missed an opportunity to represent MS how it is for thousands of people. Although I accept some people do feel desperate and suicidal, I’m incensed that MS and disability is depicted in such a negative light.
Representation of MS in the media is always extreme. Either people are winning Paralympic medals and skydiving or they’re desperate and suicidal.
Neither of those extremes represents me, or thousands of other MSers around the world. What about those of us who struggle to continue working or raising children? Those of us who try to maintain friendships and a social life despite everywhere being ridiculously inaccessible! What about the majority of us just getting on with it and trying to remain positive despite MS bulldozing through our lives?
Why didn’t they introduce a character with MS who quietly gets on with it? They could have dealt with early symptoms, the fall out of a diagnosis, followed by treatment options and decisions. The character could then deal with relapses, disclosure at work, fatigue, disability, as well as the difficulty with dropped curbs or disabled parking or even the decision to use a wheelchair.
The story line could have run and run for years, sensitively telling it how it is rather than focussing on one extreme to win headlines and viewers.
It wasn’t even made clear what kind of MS Dinah had and I feel despair for all those people newly diagnosed with MS who may be thinking that’s their future!
Twitter went nuts about the episode and the MS society was wrongly accused of endorsing the storyline. They acted as advisors to the BBC but had no control over what was written. It would have been so good for MS charities if Dinah had accessed the support available and their amazing work was highlighted. Maybe the donations would have come flooding in if that was the case rather than depicting misery and death as a foregone conclusion.
They did try and balance it out by showing another character with MS who was positive and leading a full life, but I felt this was too little too late.