EastEnders will shine a spotlight on depression as the residents of Albert Square celebrate Christmas.
The soap’s festive plot line will focus on the strained marriage of Lee and Whitney Carter.
It will show Lee, played by Danny-Boy Hatchard, buckle under the pressure of spiralling debts and depression as his wife remains oblivious to his suffering.
Danny-Boy, who will leave the BBC show after the climax of the story, told the Christmas issue of Radio Times: “His depression is going to escalate, and it’s a hard-hitting thing for people to watch.
“I’ve had people writing to me saying that the storyline has been unbearable because it’s like watching themselves.
“But that means we’re doing our jobs properly.”
Shona McGarty, who plays Whitney, said: “I feel very sorry for Lee. He’s trapped by this belief that men shouldn’t show their emotions too much, so Whitney is oblivious.
“She doesn’t know what’s going on in his mind.”
Fans of the soap have been sharing their fears that the character will become so desperate he will commit suicide – and this is how Danny-Boy will leave the show.
“Does anyone else think this Lee storyline is going to go very dark and end up with a suicide?” one tweeted.
Another wrote: “So Lee commits suicide it would seem, hence him leaving the show. That’s gonna be tough to watch.”
A third added: “I’m thinking Lee is gonna commit suicide.”
Danny-Boy has played Danny Dyer’s on-screen son in the soap since 2014 and said he hopes this plot line helps people who are struggling to voice their feelings.
He said: “Men, generally speaking, don’t like to express themselves because they feel it’s a sign of weakness. And it’s not.
“We want parents to tell their sons that they’re allowed to cry.
“EastEnders should have a message at the heart of it. It needs to affect people. The normality of it is important.
“If we keep heightening things too much, then it loses focus. But we’re making Lee’s story as real as possible.”