Kat talks about working with Coronation Street to raise awareness of bipolarBipolar UK volunteer Katerini Edgington-Spathis recently visited ITV's Coronation Street team to advise on their latest storyline with Gina, who has bipolar. She shares her great experience for our Pendulum blog:

At the age of 7 I had dreams of being a famous actress, then a dancer, a singer. I was a writer who wanted to write the lives of the characters in my favourite TV show; Coronation Street.

The episode following Brian Tilsley’s murder gripped my imagination as a child. I know I was far too young to comprehend the complexity of this storyline but I felt every emotion when the police told Gayle. I knew it wasn’t real life, but it didn’t stop me from feeling pain as I watched Nick perch on the stairs overhearing every word. 

Fast forward 28 years, add in a lengthy battle with bipolar and a full time job as an administrator, and I couldn’t be farther away from my dream to walk along those famous cobbles. 

In December 2016, Bipolar UK called me and asked if I, as an Employment Ambassador, would like to accompany her to the ITV studios and talk to the writers of Coronation Street about bipolar.

Two days later I found myself n a room where every single person had an Apple Mac or iPad, flash reading glasses and funky haircuts. To me, this was royalty. They offered us lunch but being so nervous the contents of my plate were a slice of avocado, two cherry tomatoes and a prawn.

It’s hard to imagine being in a room of thirty or so people and having the responsibility of educating them on how you live and cope with your debilitating mental illness. We had an hour to tell them the facts and figures and give them anecdotes that they were both horrified and slightly entertained by.

They asked about memory, promiscuity, employment and the effect bipolar has on an individual's friends and family. For once, my illness had served a purpose and I believed if they took note of what we said, then maybe Corrie’s execution of the condition might just educate and entertain the nation.

Katerini and Fiona visit Coronation Street to talk about bipolar

But it doesn’t end there. March 2017 brought a second visit to Corrie. The character, who we now know is Sally Metcalfe’s sister Gina, was cast and is now played by Connie Hyde.

I got to meet Connie and we were introduced by the show's producer Dominic to one of the script editors and a producer. Connie entered the room with clip board and an A4 pad and pen, poised and ready to write. We were asked about facts and figures and Connie asked me, “What's it like to be depressed?”

There were five people listening to me that day and I made one of them cry, twice. Depression and mania are ruthless and terrible and we can’t sugarcoat it otherwise nobody watching will truly know how cruel bipolar can be.

That day I got to walk along those magnificent cobbles. I wandered through the set, pretended to pull a pint in the Rovers, sat on Steve’s chair in the cab office, but more importantly I got to see how our real-life stories can impact the shows we watch every day.

Corrie promised us they would do a good job and that the character of Gina would do the condition justice. So far I believe they are true to their word. 

Always remember, Coronation Street is television and there will be aspects that we might not identify with but somebody else watching might do. That’s the art of a story and the effect of bipolar.