Shawn’s suicide story was a masterclass in how NOT to write about mental health issues. It’s a shame because if handled correctly, his struggle with suicidal feelings could have been as emotional as JJ’s similar turmoil after he shot Theo in 2017.
But on Days of Our Lives during the week of 8-28-23, we got the Reader’s Digest version of Shawn’s problems, with Shawn quitting therapy, considering suicide, agreeing to be committed for 24 hours, and feeling more like himself within only a few episodes.
It was far too rushed to have any meaningful impact and mostly left viewers feeling like Shawn was being written out of character.
Shawn’s struggles likely will lead to Belle’s exit since Martha Madison is leaving Days of Our Lives. The writers may have felt a time crunch, especially if their plan is for Belle to leave town because Shawn needs treatment elsewhere or because her relationship with Shawn implodes.
Still, there’s no good reason to be in this much of a hurry. It feels like the writers are again failing to take mental health issues seriously.
It’s crucial to get stories about suicide right. Far too many people take their own lives each year, and stories suggesting you can instantly recover don’t help anything.
The responsible way to handle this type of story is to do what they did when JJ considered it—show his inner struggle in-depth and conclude the episode with a PSA that includes a hotline number for people to call if they need help.
Instead, Shawn’s suicidal thoughts came out of nowhere and were resolved just as quickly.
In reality, people often keep their feelings to themselves and put on a brave face, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a man who blames himself for his grandfather’s death and his father being in a coma thinks his death is the only fair resolution (Again, JJ thought something similar after Theo went into a coma.).
But it’s not believable that after 24 hours, Shawn would feel so much better that he has to be talked out of going back to work.
When a person gets to the point that he is considering ending his life, protecting his safety is no easy feat. Most acutely suicidal patients stay in the hospital for 72 hours, not 24, and are treated with a combination of medication and therapy.
Drugs often take time to work and may initially make things worse.
If alcohol, which is a depressant, is involved, it’s even more complex because the person may need to detox before they can begin medical treatment and may struggle with their painful feelings returning while hungover.
In addition, people’s feelings generally don’t turn on a dime from “wanting to die” to “not at all depressed.”
Marlena shouldn’t be treating her son-in-law, especially not if her daughter can manipulate her into breaking confidentiality. That scene between Marlena and Belle was ridiculous.
I know things happen in Salem differently than in real life, but still. A little research goes a long way when it comes to these kinds of stories.
There is no requirement to divulge everything that happens in therapy because the patient’s wife thinks he may be suicidal. The only time a therapist can break confidentiality is if the DOCTOR not only thinks the patient is suicidal but believes that they are in immediate danger of hurting themselves.
A hunch that Shawn is in a bad place doesn’t cut it. Marlena would have had to have specific knowledge of a threat to Shawn’s life, such as him telling her that he planned to use his work-issued gun to end his life and a reasonable belief that he would act on that idea immediately.
She had none of that, so she couldn’t say anything. And if she did have that, the most she could do was share the specifics of his plan with emergency workers so that they could head to the scene and try to stop him.
She’s not supposed to break confidentiality any more than that. And yes, this is a soap, so it takes poetic license, but when it comes to issues that could seriously affect viewers’ lives, the writers should be more responsible.
Some viewers might be hesitant to seek help if suicidal because they think it works as it does on TV shows like this and don’t want a therapist to gossip about them all over town. Getting the details right in this type of story is important, and the DAYS writers missed the mark here.
Shawn’s story also falls flat because it feels like a collection of random tropes and stereotypes instead of a story about Shawn’s struggles.
The story primarily focuses on how distraught Belle is that Shaun won’t lean on her during this difficult time. Shawn’s part is to get drunk and yell at Belle that she doesn’t understand what he’s going through.
This storyline would be far more effective if we were privy to more of his inner struggle. Shawn has never struggled with whether or not to drink, at least not on-screen, and he tells Belle—and viewers—how he feels, but we haven’t seen it play out on-screen.
I’m not nearly as fond of flashbacks as the writers are, but why isn’t Shawn having any of trying to apologize to Hope at the hospital or of the doctors telling him they don’t know if Bo will ever wake up?
That would be a simple way of demonstrating the depth of his pain, but the writers aren’t doing it.
Similarly, what was going through Shawn’s mind as he stared at his gun? It wasn’t effective to have scene after scene of him looking at the weapon without context, especially since he then showed up at Marlena’s to ask for help.
This would have been a perfect time for flashbacks and voiceovers to help us understand his struggles and why.
Days of Our Lives also began a story involving the most prominent guest star it has ever landed, as Dick Van Dyke visited Salem.
Kayla: Hello, sir. What is your name?
Mystery Man: I was hoping you could tell me.
Van Dyke’s character is a befuddled older man with amnesia. Maybe he and Abe should join a support group for people who don’t remember who they are since Abe still has no memories, either!
So far, the role has given Van Dyke the chance to do some of the comedic one-liners he’s known for. His responses to Kayla’s cognitive exam questions were hilarious, and I especially liked his suggestion that he’s really his character from Mary Poppins.
I’m unsure how I feel about a nonagenarian flirting with every woman he sees, especially since he asked whether he can still call women attractive. Mystery Man didn’t have any malicious intent, but the idea that unwanted male attention is cute or funny from older men doesn’t sit well with me.
The rest of his scenes were fun, and I’m eager to learn how he’s connected to the good people of Salem. Some leaked scenes suggest that the mystery man is John’s father, but could that be a red herring?
Yo Ling was such an awful character that I’d be just as glad to have John permanently disassociated with him, but hopefully, this is the last time John changes parents if that’s what it turns out to be.
Elsewhere, the Brady/Chloe/Xander triangle took a strange turn when a not-so-dead Philip appeared on Chloe’s doorstep.
While some fans were disappointed that Jay Kenneth Johnston is not reprising the role, John Paul Lasovier did a fine job as Philip—besides his beard and hairstyle making him a dead ringer for Shawn Christian’s Daniel!
It’s too bad Daniel is dead, at least for the moment. Daniel and Philip never got over their hatred of each other after Parker’s birth, so it would have been interesting for them to turn out to have been brothers rather than Daniel being Victor’s godson.
Anyway, Chloe’s reactions made sense. Not only has she known Philip a long time, but she also spent time in a mental hospital after trying to interfere with Daniel and Jennifer in crazy ways.
Brady’s reaction was annoying.
First of all, I wish Salem men, in general, would stop settling everything by punching people in the face. That particular soap opera trope is obnoxious and needs to go!
Brady has a right to be angry, but he’d be a hypocrite if he pressed charges against Philip. Brady also went out of his mind with jealousy once, stalking Nicole to ensure she wasn’t having an affair with Eric and eventually blackmailing her into leaving town to force her and Eric apart.
He didn’t fake his death and get anyone arrested, but he threatened to ruin Nicole’s life if she stayed with Eric, and if he’d thought of making it look like Eric killed him, he would have done it.
So if Philip, who got help after the incident, should go to jail, Brady should too, and for a lot longer since he didn’t do anything to address his mental health issues after his plan succeeded.
Brady is only standing down for selfish reasons. He thinks somehow, people learning that Philip is alive will score him points with the judge so that he can regain custody of Rachel.
And anyway, this is not the time for this. Philip came home to pay his last respects to his dead father. Can’t the funeral take precedence over petty grudges?
Ultimately, Brady did the right thing, only to almost be pushed back into vengeance mode by John.
But it’s not solely up to him—if Trask gets wind of this, she’ll prosecute Philip to prove she’s tough on crime, and I wouldn’t put it past Brady to accidentally let something slip in front of her so he can get his revenge while pretending it wasn’t his fault.
The other big story, of course, is this Gwen/Leo/Dimitri nonsense.
I appreciate the pro-gay, pro-drag theme, but my goodness, this story is ridiculous!
It gets sillier and sillier. Right now, Dimitri and Leo are acting like lovesick teenagers, and Gwen is mostly oblivious, though she suddenly got her brain back when she talked to Kristen.
Kristen: As I said, I jumped to the wrong conclusion, so how about we forget I said anything?
Gwen: I wish I could forget about it, but I can’t because you’re, well, you.
Someone, please make this stop.
And while we’re at it, can all romantic couples find something to do other than spend 24 hours a day in bed together? Especially Chad and Stephanie, who NEVER eat because sex is more important.
I’d have been happy to have skipped Chad and Stephanie getting interrupted by Alex again if we could have had Paulina and Abe’s date on-screen. That seemed critical, so why were we hearing about it second-hand?
Your turn, Days of Our Lives fanatics. Hit that big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and tell us what you loved, hated, or were indifferent to.
Don’t forget to check back on Sunday for the latest Days of Our Lives Round Table discussion.
Days of Our Lives streams exclusively on Peacock. New episodes drop on weekday mornings at 6/5c.
Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.