Doctors‘ Ruth has struggled to settle back into The Mill following her mental breakdown. But a row with Heston gives her just the confidence boost she needs, as Selina Chilton explains…

Ruth has been working hard to get her life back on track following her breakdown – she’s recently buried the hatchet with ex-best friend Michelle, hasn’t she?
“It’s not that they are to be best friends again but a truce has been called. Ruth feels very guilty for what Michelle went through at the hands of Ruth’s illness [Ruth was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder]. It’s not that Michelle can forgive her but Michelle can understand that she was ill and that she didn’t mean to do the things she did. So, from that point, they are able to move forward.”

There’s still one person at the surgery who doesn’t know how to deal with mental health issues and that’s Heston…
“Ruth has always had the inclination that Heston, with his old-school ways, may be one of the last people to come round to the idea that she suffered a mental breakdown and that she can work despite her condition. Ruth overhears Heston telling Simon that what Ruth could really do with is a stiff upper lip and a dose of fresh air. This does upset Ruth but it’s information she stores for later on…”

Doesn’t Heston agree to attend assertiveness training with Ruth, to build her confidence?
“Heston becomes convinced that Ruth needs to go on an assertiveness course after witnessing her with a couple of patients. She handles the patients fine, but he feels that because of her history of mental health she needs a bit of a confidence boost, she needs some extra training. So he convinces her to go on this assertiveness course.”

How does Ruth take to the class?
“When they get there, Ruth’s surprised that she enjoys herself. She finds that she’s rather good at communicating calmly and confidently and she impresses the tutor. Heston, on the other hand, manages to upset the entire group with his rudeness, his insensitivity and his bolshiness. He’s convinced he knows best when he doesn’t and the rest of the group, Ruth included, agree with the tutor, that he actually has a lot to learn.”

We bet Heston doesn’t like that?
“On day two, when he pushes Ruth too far during a role-play exercise, she’s unable to hold it in any longer and attacks him with the full force of all of her previous frustrations that he’s never really supported her struggle through mental illness and ends up saying something she regrets.”

What?
“As Heston pushes Ruth, sparks fly and she really gives him a piece of her mind. She says his intolerance to mental health issues is a disgrace and that it’s a good job he was never a father because there’s no way he could support somebody under his care with his hang-ups. At which point he reveals that he was a father, gets terribly upset and leaves the room. And Ruth realises she’s gone too far.”

Can Heston and Ruth overcome this fall-out?
“The next day, Ruth goes to apologise to Heston but he apologises first for his insensitivity and from that point on their relationship appears to be mended. It’s almost as if that needed to happen for them to be on the same wavelength and I think that, finally, throughout the course of the assertiveness training Heston appreciates just what Ruth’s been through.”

Where does their relationship go from here?
“There’s an incident that occurs a few weeks later where Ruth is in an unfortunate situation and Heston comes to her aid. He experiences Ruth’s mental health issues first-hand and is able to deal with them more effectively than he would have had they not had the fall out. So it’s kind of a learning process for both of them.”

Is Ruth finally getting her life back on track?
“Yes, I would say so and I hope that continues. It might not all be plain sailing; BPD is a long-term condition but I would like to see for Ruth that this whole experience only makes her stronger.”

Doctors is shown weekdays at 1.45pm on BBC1