We chatted to Jessamy Stoddart who plays Liberty in Hollyoaks to reflect on what she’s learnt about postpartum psychosis (PP), and how APP helped Jessamy create an authentic and powerful performance of a woman experiencing PP.
First of all, for any readers who haven’t seen Hollyoaks, can you tell us a bit about Liberty’s storyline?
So... Liberty was carrying a baby for her sister. The birth was sudden and traumatic, and she lost a lot of blood. After this, during her physical recovery she started hallucinating and confiding in a nurse that wasn’t actually there. From this point on, it was clear she was suffering from postpartum psychosis, however it went unnoticed for quite some time. She has now received help and is very much on the mend.
When the Hollyoaks team first discussed PP with you, what, if anything, did you know about the illness and how did you feel about the storyline?
Being completely truthful, I had never come across postpartum psychosis before. Like many, I knew of people who had experienced postnatal depression, but psychosis was completely new to me. When researching I was shocked at the effects PP had on the mothers and those around them. I was honoured to tackle such an important storyline.
You took part in a Zoom session with staff and women with experience of PP. How did this support you in developing your portrayal?
This Zoom call was invaluable to my process. Hearing stories first hand, as well as talking to partners and health care professionals gave me such great insight. It also gave me a comfort blanket, knowing if I had any questions I could always speak to someone from the charity.
Did you learn anything new from speaking directly with women who have experienced PP? How did it add to the research that you did for the role?
Absolutely. It was so great to speak to incredible women who have come out the other side, who could really give me insight into what was going through their mind at the time. I had watched many documentaries but this really added to the research from a recovery perspective. It was amazing to speak to healthcare professionals too, to see what they would consider were the physical attributes of those who are suffering - I put a lot of this physicality into my character. I also found speaking to the partners of those going through PP so very interesting. They are smack bang in the middle of the symptoms often before it’s been diagnosed. So it’s a very traumatic experience for them – something that I’d never really considered.
Why do you think it’s important for soaps to tackle storylines like this?
Knowledge is power. If tackling this storyline helps even one person to recognise the symptoms early on, then we’ve done our job!
Finally, what’s next for Liberty?
Recovery and getting her ‘sparkle’ back! I’d also love to finish by saying a huge thank you to everyone at APP. The work you do is truly incredible!
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