There’s been a lot of discussion about the portrayal of Dinah, the character in EastEnders with MS who took her own life in last Thursday’s episode. For me personally I found it very upsetting, and so did friends and family.
I wanted to see a more realistic representation of MS
I’m not sure when we actually learnt that Dinah had MS. Originally, I didn’t think that’s what she had. The fact she was receiving oxygen led me to believe that she had a problem with her lungs.
I have relapsing MS and having lived with it for 13 years, and I know that no two people with MS have the same symptoms. Of course I’m under no illusion that some people with MS will end up living like Dinah. But many won’t.
What if I was newly diagnosed with MS?
One of my first thoughts was to imagine how I’d react to the storyline if I’d only recently been diagnosed. I’m sure there was a sense of panic amongst newly diagnosed people, wondering if they were going to end up like Dinah.
The majority of people with MS I know still lead a relatively normal life. They work, have a family and generally look after themselves. They might not be able to do everything they used to, but with a little help or adaptations, many people with MS are fighting on.
Of course, there are people who do find life with MS challenging, and rely on wheelchairs and the support of carers. But I feel that this story was a misrepresentation of the MS community.
Why didn’t they show how most of the MS population live?
Lack of care and support
Another thing that baffled me was the lack of care and support from the NHS in the storyline. Dinah had a fall, went to hospital, discharged herself, came home and no one checked on her.
Was she in contact with an MS nurse? I wonder if the character Darren was an afterthought. Perhaps thinking they’d better try and support Dinah somehow.
Overall, I’m grateful that MS has been highlighted by such a big TV drama. I just wish the writers had thought it through a little better, and that MS was portrayed in a more balanced way.