Sarah Lancashire speaks out about her depression, saying it's a 'cruel illness'

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sarah lancahsire
Sarah Lancashire has opened up about her mental health problems, saying depression can be a 'cruel illness'.

She's currently receiving lots of praise for her starring role in Happy Valley as Catherine Cawood, but her road to success hasn't been easy.

Speaking to The Sun, the actress spoke about being diagnosed with depression, saying she first started experiencing symptoms of the illness when she was 17 years old and spent the following decade trying to find a way to deal with them.

Sarah said: 'Tranquillisers were the worst thing for it. I ended up in a terrible mess. My twenties were a write-off.'

Sarah plays Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley

The 51-year-old actress also explained why the condition is so 'cruel', as most people can hide it well from others.

'It's a cruel illness because you can't see it and you can hide it so well. At least, I can', she said.

'I'm a genius at hiding it. I think a lot of people are. Actors are bloody marvellous at hiding.'

Before playing Raquel Watts on Coronation Street, Sarah says depression made her life as a budding actress a lot more difficult.

'[I didn't know] what it feels like to wake up in the morning full of the joys of spring and wander through the day feeling capable of coping.

'In my early days depression did inhibit me because I was too debilitated and terrified to tell anyone why I couldn't get on a train from Manchester for auditions in London.'

The actress won a British Academy Television Award for her role in Last Tango in Halifax

Sarah got her big break in the soap in 1991 but while she was playing a cheerful barmaid in the show, away from the screens she was experiencing a difficult time.

She said she was able to deal with her illness during that period because of some time-off from work: 'Purely coincidentally, I had been written out of the Street for 10 weeks, so I was lucky. It was a time bomb waiting to go off.

'It was my mother who said, "Enough's enough". It must be dreadful to watch someone you love so debilitated, and she literally dragged me to the doctor. It gave me my life back.'

Leaving the show in 1996 coincided with her divorce from her first husband, Gary Hargreaves, and at the time she says she didn't want to even consider getting involved with someone else romantically.

Sarah played Raquel Watts from 1991 to 1996

Five years later that changed when she met top TV executive Peter Salmon, and the two got together in 2000. He and Sarah were engaged on 2001, and she said at the time: 'Look at me! It's very difficult to disguise how I feel. I just can't stop smiling.'

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Although she's currently not taking medication for her mental health issues since 2011, Sarah says that that may change in the future. 'I know there will come a time when I'll have to, but for now it's OK.'

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I've had depression as part of my PTSD but you can beat as I have done. As a veteran I have been so lucky to be treated by PTSD Resolution. The main thrust of the treatment is provided though human givens therapy. It has left me with a positive mental attitude which I now base and lead my life through.

Louise Adam

Depression is one of the worst experiences of my life and some of my close friends. It is so refreshing to read such honesty from a high caliber star like Sarah Lankashire; thank you for sharing your story. I was lucky to be put forward for a course on MCBT (mindful cognitive behaviour therapy) by my doctor. The course was run by Exeter University for 13 weeks and we were monitored for 3 years. It takes practice but I now gave a coping tool to fight this debilitating illness and have now been well for 6 years. Medication works but the side effects can be horrible


Thank you Sarah for sharing. The more people hide this illness the more negativity grows. I have suffered depression since I was 16. I have made a decision to stay on tablets for life as I learn coping strategies but find it hard to sustain them. It takes very little for me to turn in on myself and fall into the lowness of depression,but the tablets just help me cope a little. Air ((((( HUGS )))))) to everyone who battles depression. xxx

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