The Archers

Suggested Ambridge New Year Resolutions 2017

Brian

Stop behaving like an ageing alpha male lion. Otherwise you might lose more than your pride. Give in graciously to Adam’s plans. Once you accept that you are, just like the rest of us, completely replaceable, you will be a lot happier.

Adam

See above. Also, maybe you could get in touch with Charlie?  We liked you being with him much better than poor old Ian.

Jennifer

Keep Brian on a shorter leash. Buy plenty of tissues for Lilian. And make more time for your writing.

Lilian

Dump Justin before he dumps you. He’s not nearly as much fun as you think. You can do much better than Ambridge’s answer to Sir Philip Green.

Toby

Don’t let people’s low expectations define you. Get a proper job, preferably in Brighton.

Tom and Kirsty

Buy a pram.

Helen

Do not, on any account, let Rob back into your life. Whatever he tells you, abusive males like him are extremely unlikely to change. Do everything you can to keep your lovely boys safe. One day you might meet someone else. But for now, while you recover from such a damaging few years, you are much better off alone.

Pip

Do not let other people tell you who to go out with. But equally, don’t let the poor opinions of your family cast Toby as Romeo to your Juliet. Like Lilian, you can do better. You won’t meet new people working on your parents farm and living at Rickyard Cottage. Time to spread your wings in 2017.

Jill

What is going on with you, Jill? Why do you hate Toby Fairbrother quite so much? You have alienated your beloved granddaughter, you risk doing the same with your daughter-in-law, and as a church-goer, you are showing some extremely un-Christian attitudes. And you won’t listen to reason.  It isn’t really about Pip, is it? Nor is it about Toby’s father and his long-ago affair with Elizabeth. It goes much deeper than that. I suggest you talk to someone outside the family who you trust, possibly Reverend Alan, and explore these feelings. You may need some professional help. Because such uncharacteristic vitriol at your age is really worrying.

Ed and Emma

Stay as sweet and honest as you are. Undoubtedly we could do with more working class characters who are in the cast for more than just their comedic value. But you two are brilliant. Please don’t change a thing.

Usha and the new vet lady

Likewise, we need to see much more of you both, as well as a few more characters who just happen to be Black, Asian or from other Minority Ethnic backgrounds. Or those of us who argue that The Archers is no longer totally white and middle-class will have to admit we are wrong. Bring back Iftikar Shah; he is much more glamorous and interesting than that boring doctor, Elizabeth!

Pat and Tony

If you thought semi-retirement was going to be quiet, think again. Prepare for incoming grandchild number 4. And congratulate yourselves on being true to your characters but at the same time amazing in 2016.

Here’s to a wonderful 2017 in Ambridge, which remains an oasis of compassion and commonsense compared with the rest of the world.

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Dear Rob Titchenor

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Dear Rob

Last week I wrote a letter to Helen. It went down quite well. I’m not sure that writing to you will be quite so popular, but I feel rather strongly that you need support. Although probably not for the reasons you think.

You seem to believe that you have been badly wronged by recent events. Life is rather grim, despite the prospect of the new job. But until you take responsibility for the pain and psychological damage you caused Jess and Helen, you will continue to hurt others and yourself.

You talk about Henry and Gideon/Jack as though they were your personal possessions. Everything you say about them is expressed in relation to how you feel. This is not how good, loving parents behave. Good parents put their children’s needs before their own. They are prepared to give up anything for their children’s sake, even if that means never seeing them again. They would give up their own lives for them if they had to. Could you do that?

Your psychological development has been badly affected by your own parents. Your father is a cruel ill-tempered man who judges others harshly and withholds love. He has abused your mother psychologically for many years. She has learned to accept his put-downs and capitulate to him, including sending you away to boarding school when you were very young. This has left you deeply scarred.

You have absorbed your father’s misogynistic attitude to women. You love your mother but treat her as a useful fool. You treat the women you have relationships with as sex objects and workhorses to be manipulated and controlled. You are ultra-competitive, deeply jealous and you struggle with controlling your temper. You have an unreasonable sense of entitlement and you perceive your own attributes and the faults in others far in excess of reality. This causes you problems in your work and personal life.

Some people would describe you as a narcissist, a person whose psychological development has been arrested in response to excessive criticism or other trauma as a child. I’m not sure if such a label is useful, unless it encourages you to seek help. What I do know is that you need help. Badly. Because your behaviour is going to get you into really serious trouble one of these days. And because although you pretend otherwise, you are very unhappy.

It won’t be easy. You are going to have to rethink everything you currently believe about yourself and others.

It is possible that you can be rehabilitated. It can happen in real life as well as in a soap. And if you and the writers of The Archers can do it, it would be a good thing. It would send a positive message that it isn’t down to the woman and the criminal justice system to combat coercive control. The only thing Helen got wrong was to be vulnerable. It was you who targeted, hoodwinked, bullied, abused and raped her. So it is you who needs to change.

There are services available to help men like you. Although not nearly enough of them. Such work takes great patience and skill and it isn’t quick. But it is essential because there are far too many men who physically and psychologically abuse the women they profess to love. A few end up in prison. The majority get away with it. And go on to ruin the lives not only of those they have already abused but also of the next women and children who are unfortunate enough to form relationships with them.

So I encourage you to seek some professional help. Here are some useful numbers and websites:

  • Respect  – organisation that specialises in helping to end domestic abuse
  • Respect Phoneline 0808 802 4040 – Confidential helpline for those who are worried that they are abusing a partner
  • Refuge – website with information about help if you think you may be an abuser

If you can admit to what you have done, Rob, it would be a very good first step. You talk frequently about “being a man”. Facing up to being an abuser is what a real man would do. It will take considerable bravery. And it won’t be easy.

Helen showed immense courage in eventually standing up to you. Could you find courage like that to face yourself? I really hope so.

Wishing you well.

From Lisa

 

 

 

Dear Helen

20160918_103222Dear Helen

At last it’s over. You are free and safely home at Bridge Farm. The judge saw through Rob and gave you full custody of both boys. Your nasty husband won’t be allowed to see Henry at all and will only be able to spend limited time with Jack under Pat and Tony’s supervision.

The nation breathes a sigh of relief. We can return to wondering who will win the Flower and Produce Show.

But I’m still worried about you.

I’m worried because you can’t cut Rob out of your life completely. He’s Jack’s father, and he will no doubt be manipulative over access. And he’s still living in Ambridge. You have a divorce to face, with legal and financial settlements to get through. You have been very brave, but you are going to need to continue to be so for a long time. And that will be hard.

I’m worried that things may be rocky for a while with Henry. He’s only a little boy, and he is bound to have a reaction too. Despite ‘Daddy’ having been unduly strict and irascible, he was there when you were not able to be. Henry may resent you for disappearing while you were in prison: he won’t be able to understand why you couldn’t be at home with him. He may tell you he misses Rob, and you will have to work out what to say and do that will help him.

I’m also worried because you’ve experienced a series of terrible traumas – coercive control over two years, multiple rapes, the incident that led to the stabbing, imprisonment,  loneliness and separation from Henry. Plus the fear of being convicted, having Jack taken away and never seeing Henry again. You are a very private person; the trial must have been excruciating, with everyone knowing your business. These things will have had an impact. And there is bound to be a reaction. You may find yourself feeling flat and exhausted. Or even sinking into despair. Please don’t pretend to be OK if you are not. Please talk to someone, maybe your Mum or Kirsty, however hard it feels to do so.

And I’m worried that the reasons Rob was able to manipulate you haven’t changed. You are a thoughtful, caring person. But you are also vulnerable. You’ve lost a brother and a previous partner, and now all this. Even if you don’t feel the immediate need for professional help, when you are ready it might be good to explore the things that have happened to you, the impact they have had and how you want to live your life in the future. If you need professional help to do this, it is nothing to feel ashamed of. In fact it is a courageous and unselfish thing to do. Again it won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.

I’m not a complete idiot, Helen. I am well aware that you are a fictional character. But you represent something very real to listeners. You have touched a nerve in all of us about narcissistic charmers like Rob who in subtle and not-so-subtle ways undermine and manipulate their partners, leaving them confused, diminished, even broken.

We Archers fans love how this story has been given time to breathe. No other soap could have done this. As there is no other soap that could allow your character to face the aftermath of the abuse slowly and gently, in real time.

Some people think The Archers is all about smug middle class farmers to whom nothing ever happens, with a few working class folk thrown in for a bit of comic relief. How wrong they are.

Thank you Helen and The Archers for showing us what it’s like to meet Mr Wrong. It is a lesson that we all needed to learn.

Wishing you much love and luck for the future

Lisa

Is #TheArchers like real life?

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We Archers addicts are waiting with bated breath for September and the trial when, we hope, serial bully and narcissistic cad Rob Titchenor will finally get his come-uppance.

But our hopes keep being dashed. Scruff has gone to his grave (alright, an urn in Lynda’s basket) without revealing the secrets of the flood. Shula’s confession (that she lied to the police and that Rob really did hit the hunt saboteur) may wreck her marriage and her saintly reputation. But it won’t help Helen. And Helen isn’t helping herself; she won’t tell Anna the full extent of the shameful secrets from her marriage to Rob.

It’s all very frustrating. Which is good for us listeners, because that’s what real life is like. As well as messy, inconclusive and often unfair. In this article from 2014, psychotherapist Philippa Perry explains why tragic events in fairy stories, books and films are good for children. They help them to practice the emotions needed to deal with real-life disappointment and loss.

We adults need the same. And we must prepare ourselves. Because the chances are that Helen will get convicted next month. I’m not saying this because I think she’s guilty. I believe that, at worst, she acted in self-defence. I say it because men like Rob often get away with it. The odds are stacked in his favour. He lacks emotions about anyone but himself. But he also plays the loving father and victim very well for short periods. He could fool the jurors. After all, he fooled most of us when he first appeared in Ambridge.

And the prosecution will paint Helen as an unreliable witness. We may not like it, but women like Helen, who have experience of mental illness, plus have had their confidence sapped by abusive partners and being separated from their children, often fare badly within our adversarial judicial system.

Some judges bend over backwards to make sure that vulnerable women get a fair hearing in court. But not all. The one who presided over the interim custody order for Henry seemed predisposed towards Rob. He was sharp with Anna and with Helen. Shockingly, that wasn’t unrealistic.

But we can still hope.

  1. We can hope that the trial judge is a bit more enlightened. But even then, the odds are stacked against Helen. Juries are made up of people representative of society. And like it or not, in our society, women are unfairly discriminated against, in court as in many other settings.
  2. We might also hope that Henry will remember what he heard, even saw, on the night that Rob got stabbed. Of course, we don’t know what actually happened. Or what Rob has subsequently persuaded Henry that he heard or saw. Henry could say something that makes things even worse for Helen.
  3. We can hope that Henry will tell the social worker that Rob has an evil temper, is always telling him to be quiet and a good boy, and does cruel things like threatening boarding school and confiscating his rabbit because it’s babyish. Rob’s parenting methods are based on what his own awful parents did to him. Plus he has told Henry that his Mummy is bad and has abandoned him. Henry may feel that Daddy is all he has left. The holiday with Pat and Tony has come at a good time. But we should be worried for poor little Henry, who seems unnaturally well-behaved given what has happened to him recently.
  4. We are of course all hoping that Helen will somehow find the courage to face what Rob did over many months when he isolated her, psychologically abused her, threatened her, belittled her and sexually assaulted her on the night that baby Gideon/Jack was conceived. And joked afterwards about her being a minx who made him get carried away. But Helen has buried those memories because they are disgusting and unbearable to her. She may never be able to face them, even though they hold the key to saving herself and her children.
  5. We can hope that Jess will have a change of heart and be prepared to tell the court what she has already admitted to Anna about Rob’s psychological and physical abuse of her too, and how she warned Helen about him. But it sounds like Rob has bought Jess off. And she is also probably frightened of him and maybe even still in thrall to him. As Helen may also be too. Men like Rob seem to mesmerise women. They wield physical power. But it is their psychological power that is the most threatening.
  6. We can even hope that somehow Stefan will reappear and spill the beans on whatever Rob did to cause the flood. Or that some other miracle will happen.

I’m definitely still hoping; the writers have had us on tenterhooks for a long time and we need a break. But I’m also preparing myself for the worst. Because  as a soap, The Archers must mimic real life.

And in real life, shit happens. Especially to people who don’t deserve it.

 

I wasn’t going to write another The Archers blog but….

My first Archers blog was about why it’s wrong to accuse someone of having a mental illness as if it were an insult. My second was about the chicken and egg relationship between mental illness and domestic abuse.

And this one? Well, it’s about the anguish we feel for women like Helen who find themselves caught in an abusive relationship trap. And my wish to make sense of this gripping story in both literary and psychological terms

How the story makes us feel

I defy anyone who has actually listened to The Archers recently not to find Helen’s situation upsetting. This week’s interview with her barrister, the apparently brilliant Anna Tregorran, was particularly so.

I know some people are saying it is too much. I understand. But I also disagree. Fiction plays an important role in our emotional and psychological development. It helps us to understand the bad things that can happen and practise emotions that we may one day need to use in real life. This is why so many children’s books feature cruelty, unfairness and loss – Bambi, Black Beauty, Little Women, Harry Potter.

Most listeners to The Archers don’t need to prepare for domestic abuse themselves. But they will undoubtedly come across someone else who experiences it. If Helen’s story has raised people’s awareness even a little, so that they are alert to the signs and don’t pretend it can’t happen in any family, then that is a very good thing.

Reflections in literature

I heard The Archers producer Sean O’Connor on the Today programme this week speaking about the literary references evoked by this storyline. He mentioned the Thomas Hardy classic Tess of the D’Ubervilles, which I could not bear to re-read because what happens to the central character is so awful. It made me think of that other classic, A Pin to See a Peepshow by F Tennyson Jesse, which has an equally grim denoument.

Women touched by madness who turn on their cruel husbands appear in other works of fiction, including Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Both meet sticky ends, whereas their husbands survive, albeit scathed.

In real life, the last woman to be hanged in the UK was Ruth Ellis. She killed her abusive lover, handed herself in to the police and stunned everyone including her trial jury and executioner with a dignified acceptance of her fate.

Why can’t the police see through Rob?

I’ve been puzzling about this. Of course, it works for the story that Rob remains plausible for the time being. But is he faking it? Probably not. People like Rob, ie narcissists, really do believe their own hype. His reaction, being pathetically sorry for himself and yet capable of sticking his own metaphorical knife into Helen as soon as he gets the opportunity, is not how most of us would react to being stabbed by our partner. We would be deeply traumatised, shocked and inarticulate. Like Helen. I am really hoping that Borsetshire’s finest have got a good psychological profiler on the team who will help them see through his glib account.

Is it better for Helen that Rob has survived?

Initially, perhaps not. Rob is now a witness. The police must listen to his story and he will do his best to implicate Helen as a mad, bad attempted murderer. Plus he is allowed to see Henry and so has the opportunity to manipulate him and plant untruthful ideas to confuse the child about what he may have witnessed. Which at the very least was that Rob got the knife out and was inciting Helen to cut her wrists just before the incident occurred.

On the other hand, attempted murder is better than murder. At some point, Helen will start to remember how Rob made her feel. Without the guilt of having killed him, and with the help of her legal council, she will hopefully start to judge herself less harshly than she is doing at the moment. And the pain of Rob being allowed to see Henry when she cannot may just be the motivation she needs to make her fight for herself. As she was doing when the incident occurred.

What could happen to Helen?

I’m no legal expert. But I know a bit about mental illness. If Helen is convicted of attempted murder, I hope she would be assessed not to have been in her right mind at the time of the assault. She would then hopefully be sent to a secure mental hospital to receive expert treatment and care. With the right help, she could be released on licence within a few years. And with luck, she would see the children while she was in hospital and get help to look after them when she comes out.

But in reality there are not enough places in secure hospitals for women. And in any case Helen already seems to be being led down a criminal justice pathway rather than a mental health one. And so the likelihood, if she is convicted, is that she would go to a women’s prison and spend a number of years behind bars. The baby would probably be removed from her soon after birth because she would be considered a risk, based on the nature of her offence. And Rob would go to court and probably be successful in getting full custody of both boys. Helen is already at high risk of suicide; this outcome would increase her risk level.

But the most hopeful scenario is that, with support, Helen will be able to mount a successful defence that she acted in self defence and/or provocation because of the abuse. She might then be given only a suspended sentence.

But she will still have to fight Rob for custody of her own children. She faces a long, hard battle. And we all know her resources are already depleted.

What does the story tell us about the way we treat women?

For me, this is the key question. There are numerous real life cases of women serving sentences for the murder or attempted murder of abusive partners, despite suffering years of cruelty and abuse. When partners, usually women, act as Helen did either in self defence or because something finally snapped, they are judged harshly by the media and by juries.

And is it also disturbingly the case that only a fraction of those who abuse their partners are ever convicted of assault. The new offence of psychological abuse has only seen a handful of convictions. Plus it will only apply in Helen’s case as a defence – Rob is not the one who has been arrested and charged.

There are no winners in domestic abuse. Victims often get blamed not only by the abuser but also by others. If there are children, their long-term mental health can be permanently affected by living in a culture of fear and violence or even being separated from their mothers, like Henry.

We need a more humane, honest approach to domestic abuse. We need to talk openly with boys as well as girls about what loving relationships are. And what they are not. And we need to find better ways to challenge the way partners, male or female, are treated by complete and utter tossers such as Rob.

The next time someone you know puts their partner down in public, speaks dismissively about them or seems overly possessive, remember Kirsty. Maybe you could find a way to speak to the person you are worried about, and ask if they are ok. Even if they brush you off, know this: at some level they will have been listening.

And that might just be the catalyst for them to get help. Before it is too late.

The ones who matter

Lisa oval

It was nice that 12,500 people read my two recent blogs on the mental health angle of a current The Archers storyline.

But it wasn’t all good. I am a sucker for positive reinforcement, including WordPress stats. And I doubt I will ever again get 4,500 views in a single day.

And that’s the thing about maintaining one’s mental well-being if you are one of the 1:4 people like me for whom it is sometimes a struggle. I’ve been a bit down since those two blogs. I’ve questioned whether I’ve got anything interesting left to say. And yet I know I need to write about stuff to work out what I think.

Here’s what I’m thinking about today.

Someone said to me recently, with real sincerity, that the tide is turning on the stigma of mental illness. They said they thought that the battle had been won because people like me can stand up and say that we sometimes need help from mental health services. And not be judged.

But I thought hmm.

Because it doesn’t feel that way. Not to me, nor the friends I’ve made through social media and in real life. Especially not those who haven’t been as fortunate as me and are forced to grind out an existence on state benefits juggled with occasional paid work. The positives from such work are overshadowed by arcane, dis-empowering rules of which it is almost impossible not to fall foul. Nor does it feel that way to those who live in fear of losing their homes, or who haven’t even got a place to call home. Current government policy feels deeply discriminatory and the exact opposite of therapeutic for those already experiencing the potentially crippling challenges of mental illness.

It doesn’t feel that the stigma has gone away for the people who can’t get the right mental health treatment, or even any treatment at all. As a wise person recently said, imagine telling the parents of a child with early stage cancer that they have to wait until things seriously deteriorate before they can see a specialist. And even then, the care will be rationed and probably not what is recommended. That’s the reality in many parts of the UK, for children and adults too.

I heard a senior commissioner say the other day that they would love to invest more in mental health, but the evidence just isn’t strong enough (my italics). What planet are they living on?? True, spending on mental health research is woeful. But there is nonetheless masses of really good evidence about what works. And it starts with intervening early via properly funded local services delivered by highly trained, well-supported staff.

What also doesn’t help reduce stigma is the almost constant service redesign and reconfiguration. Indeed, the billion pounds of “new” money announced by Jeremy Hunt after the Mental Health Taskforce Report was published is not, in fact, new at all. It has to be achieved through efficiency savings. I know from experience that such initiatives rarely achieve all that is promised. And they almost never take account of the collateral damage to staff well-being.

Not to mention competitive tendering, which mental health services face at disproportionately greater levels than other parts of the NHS. Plus the drip-drip reduction in mental health funding and the erosion of national data collection so that it takes the skills of investigative journalists to uncover the ongoing cuts that have been made over the past 6 years despite government rhetoric about parity of esteem for mental health.

And what adds further to the stigma is that the media rarely mention mental illness or mental health services except when something appears to have gone wrong. Where are the motivational stories like the ones about people who have “beaten” cancer? Even when no mistakes have been made, the finger of blame gets pointed. Imagine how this feels to staff who work in these services, being pilloried for doing a job that most people couldn’t begin to contemplate because they don’t have the skills, patience, courage and compassion needed to work in mental health. They should be lauded and supported, not ignored and criticised.

So no, the stigma of mental illness is not a thing of the past. It is ugly, cruel, destructive and ever-present. Like racism, sexism and homophobia, it will never truly go away. We have to be vigilant. And we have to keep working at it.

Despite the job I once did, it took me until I was 58 to get over my own self stigma and admit that I experienced clinical depression from time to time. Coming out about it was the hardest but also one of the best decisions I ever made. I take my hat off to others who have got to that point sooner than me. You are braver than anyone who hasn’t been there will ever know. Showing the world that people who experience mental illness have hopes and ideas and other wonderful human assets to share is the best way there is to make others want to join us and change the way things are.

Writing about mental health and The Archers was fun. Writing this piece was harder but far more satisfying. I will try not to care how many people read it.

Because the ones who do are the ones who matter.

 

What should poor Helen from TheArchers do now?

It was nice to get such a lot of interest in my blog about whether it was Helen or Rob Titchenor who needed to see a psychiatrist. As they are both fictional characters, it felt OK to surmise about their relative states of mental health, and also to remind people who were getting excited on Facebook and Twitter that having a mental illness is not a character flaw.

But right now, Helen is in turmoil. And because the writers, the producers and the actress have created someone people care about, there is a lot of advice flying around – to Helen herself, to her friend Kirsty, to her parents Pat and Tony, to her odious mother-in-law Ursula and to her abusing control-freak husband Rob. I realise that the scripts have already been written and the recordings made weeks ago, but nonetheless, here are my thoughts. They can’t help Helen, but they might help someone like her. Or their children, family and friends.

Should Kirsty break her promise and tell Pat that Rob hit Helen?

No. Because Helen has only just started to confide in her. It is really important for women who are abused by their partners not to experience what might feel like abuse from others. Helen is not in immediate danger. The best thing Kirsty can do is be there for her, listen to her and gently help her work out what to do for herself. It helps that Kirsty has sought advice from a domestic abuse website such as the wonderful Rise UK http://www.riseuk.org.uk/ It is important that Kirsty stays calm, despite how angry and upset she feels. There may come a time when she has to break her word, but not now.

Why hasn’t Helen’s psychiatrist done something already?

Again, it is vital to build trust. If the psychiatrist is doing their job properly, they will be carrying out a careful assessment of Helen. This should include checking for signs of abuse. I just hope they don’t allow Helen’s history of previous mental illness to mislead them. It is one of the curses for people who, from time to time, experience mental illness, that they can become defined by their medical history rather than it simply being a small part of who they are.

Isn’t it a good thing that mother-in-law-from-hell Ursula is going home?

I’m not sure. While Ursula is truly ghastly, she does offer some degree of protection from Rob’s more diabolical deeds. As far as we know, she isn’t the one who has been tampering with ovens and bathwater, hiding things or messing up orders at the shop so that Helen has started to doubt her own sanity.

What should Pat, Tony and Tom be doing?

They should also be listening to Helen, which means not necessarily believing everything they see or hear. And they should talk to each other and give voice to the individual concerns they are undoubtedly keeping buried under the surface. Family secrets are rarely a good thing.

But then they should be careful not to approach her together, as that could feel like ganging up. I think Tom might be the one most likely to gain her trust. Pat and Tony should make it clear that they are always there for her, no matter what has happened.

And finally, they should avoid recriminations and guilt. None of this is anyone’s fault. Except Rob’s.

Surely the idea of Henry being sent away to boarding school will bring Helen to her senses?

That’s a comment I read on Twitter. It is unkind and judgemental. Helen is vulnerable, abused and unable to think clearly. The chances are, Rob will make her believe that the pain of sending Henry away is something else she must bear for the greater good. But it could well be the trigger for Pat and Tony to stop trying to convince themselves that Rob is a wonderful husband and stepfather. Because whilst there are those who extol the benefits of boarding school, Pat and Tony are unlikely to be amongst them, especially not for their beloved five year old grandson.

What will happen to the evil Rob Titchenor?

Who knows? If life were fair, he would be prosecuted under the new laws covering psychological domestic abuse. He would go to prison, where he would get help to recognise that his own narcissistic tendencies are not only hurting other people, they are also damaging to him.

But life isn’t always fair. The chances are, Rob will somehow get away with having nearly ruined Helen and Henry’s lives, wrecked Charlie’s career, punched the saboteur, damaged Adam and Ian’s relationship, plus whatever he really did in the flood. And anyway he will be part of Helen’s life forever because of the baby, not to mention the claims he will undoubtedly make on her inheritence.

So we will have plenty more opportunities to discuss him on social media.

Surely this storyline has gone on too long? It’s making me distressed/mentally ill myself.

I disagree. Domestic abuse and mental illness are commonplace. If soaps were realistic, they would have many more such storylines. And this one is subtle. The woman is mature and the abuse is mainly psychological. I like the different angles the storyline takes. And that we can’t guess how it will end. If the most exciting thing to happen in The Archers was a risqué calendar, we’d be disappointed.

So I hope this particular storyline is allowed to run its course. It certainly isn’t making anyone who listens to it become mentally ill. That isn’t possible.
But it may trigger feelings in those who have been abused. Which is why helpline numbers are given at the end of the programme.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 http://www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/

And if this story saves even one woman – or man – from domestic abuse, won’t that be wonderful?