THE Samaritans charity said calls to its helpline increased by a third as Coronation Street character Hayley Cropper took her own life.

More than 10 million viewers watched as Hayley, played by Accrington actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, took an overdose on Monday night after giving up her struggle with incurable pancreatic cancer.

Despite media coverage prior to the episode focusing on the issue of euthanasia, Hayley’s husband Roy opposed her decision and played no part in her death.

Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of the Samaritans, said the Coronation Street production team had ‘acted responsibly’ by consulting the charity over the controversial storyline.

She added: “Our two decades of experience of advising the media about issues surrounding the portrayal of suicide, led to Hayley’s death and the devastation of her partner Roy being handled in a sensitive way.

“The inclusion of Samaritans‘ contact details at the end of the episode was helpful in encouraging those who were affected by the programme to get in touch.

“Our initial results show that calls to our helpline between 5pm on Monday and 5am yesterday ((TUES)) were 30 per cent higher than during the same period last week, although these are only partial figures.

“While some of this increase may have been a result of the Coronation Street storyline, we are also aware that calls to Samaritans are heavier than usual at this time of year.”

Some have criticised ITV for ‘stoking up’ a fake controversy about euthanasia.

Julie has herself spoken in favour of assisted suicide being legalised, while campaigner Jane Nicklinson, whose husband Tony suffered from locked-in syndrome and died in 2012, praised the soap for ‘starting a conversation’ on the issue.

But a spokesman for Coronation Street said: “We have never billed the story as dealing with euthanasia. We have advised it is a right-to-die storyline. Hayley acts alone and Roy has no part in her death.

“He is opposed to her decision and strongly expresses his viewpoint during the episodes on Monday night. Over the coming weeks, he will continue to voice his strong opposition to what she has done.”