Coronation Street star Harriet Bibby on ‘difficult’ Summer storyline- ‘it can consume you’

Coronation Street teases upcoming week of chaos on cobbles

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Throughout the week on the ITV soap, viewers have seen Summer in a downward spiral that has meant she has pushed away Billy (Daniel Brocklebank), her friend and former love interest Aadi (Adam Hussain) and potentially her future of an Oxbridge education. Struggling not only to control her blood sugar levels, Summer is seen hating her body, which has driven her bulimia. The dramatic and heartbreaking storyline comes to a head in tonight’s episode (Friday, May 27) where the youngster is seen secretly tipping her insulin down the sink before setting off to her maths exam. In a sinister turn she then has a hyper in the middle of the examination, before being carted away to hospital in an ambulance.

Actress Bibby, who has played Summer on the soap since 2020, is actually 23 in real life, meaning that her turn of school examinations and days full of dreaded revision are over. But in preparation for her storyline on the soap, the star told that she vividly remembers the pressure of both GCSEs and A-levels, and how working with charity Diabetes UK helped her to give a stunningly convincing performance.

She said: “I remember doing my GCSE and A-levels and you are confused. You think ‘if I don’t get there, then I might not be able to do something I want to do in the future’, like get a good job. You think that your life is going to completely change.

“It is only after those exams where you kind of go, ‘I will always be okay, even if I don’t get a B in my maths.’”

In light of Summer’s storyline on Coronation Street, a whopping 82 percent of head teachers have reported that stress and anxiety are higher than 2020.

According to a survey conducted by the Association of School and College Leaders and further research from Yfood, almost a third (23 percent) of Brits feel they don’t have time to eat properly whilst studying full-time, which often results in bad eating habits such as skipping meals and gorging on unhealthy foods.

It is due to statistics like the above which make storylines like Summer’s incredibly important. Although dramatised, within the soap Summer is seen to develop an eating disorder, known as diabulimia, an eating disorder that affects around 30 percent of those with type 1 diabetes.

“After hearing that I was going to be diagnosed with diabetes, I really didn’t know a lot about the condition,” Bibby continues to say. “So I had to do a lot of research, which I had to do again after I found out that it was going to lead to an eating disorder.

“It is such a specific condition that she [Summer] is living with and I think it affects a lot of people in a lot of different ways. To try and navigate how it would affect Summer was quite difficult.

“But I think it is really important because more people than we realise do suffer with things like this.”

As part of preparation for the role, Bibby found out what it meant to have the condition from those who actually have diabetes and how it affects not only the body but the mind. She added: “More recently it has just been talking to them and sharing stories about how it might feel to be in that position.

“Rather than what might be happening in someone’s body scientifically, it is how someone might feel in that position. So it has been really useful.

“People tend to connect illness with older people and you don’t really hear about many young people with conditions, so I think it is really good that Coronation Street gave the story to a young person because you can see how it can affect not only a young person physically but mentally.

“I mean young girls go through a lot of body image issues, especially at the minute with social media and everything that they have to deal with in their life. But on top of that putting insulin injections which are going to make individuals put on a little bit of weight, it can kind of consume you.

“Some of the people who I have spoken to who have had similar experiences find that those who have eating disorders are generally very good at hiding it. And I think the pressure that we see on Summer, she just doesn’t want to let anyone down. So that is why she really tries to keep it a secret.”

Diabetes UK explains that diabulimia is a “serious” condition. Those with diabulimia regularly put their lives at risk as they stop taking their insulin, which is critical for lowering blood sugar.

Some healthcare professionals may not spot the signs or know how to support someone with diabulimia, but the charity emphasises that it is incredibly important for individuals to share the physical and emotional aspects of diabetes with others if they find themselves struggling.

There are lots of reasons diabulimia may develop. Usually it is a combination of physical, social and mental health problems. When you have type 1 diabetes, there are numerous things that may contribute in setting off diabulimia, but insulin is extremely important to avoid individuals having a hyper.

Symptoms of a hyper may include:

  • Passing more urine than normal, especially at night
  • Being very thirsty
  • Tiredness and lethargy
  • Thrush or other recurring bladder and skin infections
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight loss
  • Feeling sick.

When asked what is next in store for Summer, Bibby replied: “It probably does get worse before it gets better. But I think that is something that comes with a lifelong condition like this. There are days that are really good and you feel on top of it and then there are other days that kind of just escape you. I think we see that with Summer, sometimes she drops the ball.”

For those who need confidential help and support contact Diabetes UK on their helpline: 0345 123 2399 or email [email protected].

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