The accolades keep rolling in for Melissa Claire Egan’s performance in the October 31 episode of THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS in which her character, Chelsea, attempted suicide. The scenes (Billy found Chelsea on the rooftop and stopped her from taking her own life) were the culmination of months of heartbreak and depression for the beleaguered heroine — a storyline, Egan shared in an interview with Everyday Health, was purposeful and thought-out. “This was so important to us because [mental health is] a real crisis going on in the world now,” said Egan. “We wanted to be very responsible and very respectful.”
The Daytime Emmy nominee first learned about the arc planned for her character several months ago during a meeting with Y&R headwriter Josh Griffith. “We both talked about our hope that we could really help people,” she shared, adding that as Chelsea’s pain grew over the course of the storyline, she received messages on social media from viewers who could relate to the character’s struggles. “I got a couple of [tweets] that were so heartbreaking, but people were also thanking me for portraying mental health in the right way.”
To make sure that the soap was handling Chelsea’s suicide attempt authentically, Egan and the writers worked with Dr. Dan Reidenberg, the managing director of the National Council for Suicide Prevention. As a mental health consultant on the episode, Dr. Reidenberg guided Egan and Jason Thompson (Billy) through what someone in that situation might be thinking and feeling. He also reviewed the script to make sure that the dialog, actions, and emotions were appropriate for both the person in crisis as well as those who make up their support system.
“Everybody was careful about making sure that this was done very authentically so that people could figure out what to do if they were in a similar situation,” explained Dr. Reidenberg. “We showed Billy as passionate and sincere and ready to help her, to listen, and to offer his support.”
In end, Dr. Reidenberg thought that Y&R’s powerful episode — particularly showing how to help someone in emotional distress and where to turn for help — was a job well done. And given the soap’s wide audience, “it can begin a conversation that otherwise might not have taken place.”
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or know someone who is, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255). You can also reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.