Melissa Claire Egan And Writer Josh Griffith Discuss On The Effect Of Mental Health Representation - Exclusive

The following article includes discussions of depression and suicide.

For the past 50 seasons, "The Young and the Restless" has told intriguing stories of romances and rivalries in the lives of the residents of the fictional Midwestern metropolis, Genoa City. But, this season, one character's journey, in particular, touched a lot of viewers. In the series, Melissa Claire Egan's character, Chelsea Lawson, struggles with depression to the point of considering suicide.

The actress said that this is the most serious and relatable story she's told on the show. Egan was joined by Josh Griffith, head writer and co-executive producer of the series, for an exclusive interview to discuss her character's journey. They shared why they thought this was an important topic to represent and the audience's response since it aired.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Why they wanted to address mental health in the show

In this season of "The Young and The Restless," the long-standing character Chelsea Lawson struggles with depression. At one point, her mental health dips low enough that she contemplates suicide. It was a big topic for the show to tackle and one they hadn't addressed before. The writer Josh Griffith explained that his reason for bringing the storyline into the series was character driven. "I wasn't thinking about 'Let's take on a social issue or a mental health issue.' I was looking at where Chelsea was in her journey on the show and things that had been happening to her," he said.

But, once they'd decided to take the story there, it was crucial to tell the story respectfully and honestly to offer helpful representation. They consulted an expert from the International Association for Suicide Prevention to ensure that the story felt accurate and didn't sensationalize mental illness for the sake of drama. 

Melissa Claire Egan, who's played Chelsea for several years, said she was "honored" to have such an important journey to portray. In showing someone struggling with depression, Egan said she hoped viewers saw that they're "not alone." She wanted to show "real depictions of real struggles, to normalize what people go through ... Feeling isolated and alone is one of the hardest things in life. Hopefully, people are feeling less alone and knowing that there's hope."

The Effect of Representation

When the episode aired, Melissa Claire Egan and Josh Griffith said they were both hopeful that it would resonate with the audience, but neither of them expected the response that they got. Egan described crying in her car while reading the audience's reactions on Twitter. 

"I saw how we'd helped people..." she said. "There was one tweet where someone said, 'I didn't know I was depressed until I saw this episode; now I'm going to get help.' ... We created this community within strangers of talking about [this] ... The conversations it has started have been so moving and was what we wanted to have happen."

Because of the powerful effect that media representation can have, it was also important to Josh Griffith that they continue telling Chelsea's story as she seeks help and goes to therapy. He hopes Chelsea's journey illustrates that "there are answers, there is help, and you're never alone. You can always find a support team," Griffith said.

"The Young and the Restless" is broadcast on weekdays at 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. ET/11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. PT on the CBS Television Network and is produced by Bell Dramatic Serial Company in association with Sony Pictures Television. Anthony Morina is the show's executive producer. The co-executive producer and head writer is Josh Griffith. For more information and photos regarding "The Young and the Restless," go to: Paramount Press Express | CBS Entertainment | The Young and the Restless.