Denise Welch is worried about our collective mental health.
“Mental health services are going to be on their knees,” says the actress and Loose Women star, amid the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re talking about a possible second wave – it’s going to include mental health, and undiagnosed mental illnesses of other kinds.”
Psychiatrists warned last month of a “tsunami” of mental illness from problems stored up during lockdown.
Welch, 62, is no stranger to mental illness, calling it her “unwelcome visitor”.
Her first depressive episode was sparked in 1989 by the birth of her son Matthew (now the frontman of The 1975), and she’s spoken out about her debilitating mental health struggles and addictions ever since. She’s also said she wished there was more information and medical help available during the early years of her illness.
Three marriages, two children and one viral video later, she has written a book documenting the pain she’s experienced, and how she and her family have survived.
The book was prompted by the massive response she got after she “very impulsively” tweeted a video of herself during an episode of clinical depression.
“I was overwhelmed, blindsided by the response, because I’ve talked out about this for 31 years, so it was actually a shock to me that so many people seem to be desperate to hear what I have to say about my illness,” she tells BBC News.
Welch, whose acting roles include Waterloo Road, Coronation Street and Soldier Soldier, admits she’s “somebody who is very sensitive and tends to take on the worries of the world”.
She says of the coronavirus pandemic: “It’s been a very frightening time for everybody, and some people have dealt with that better than others.”
She’s quick to add that “obviously, I don’t come at this as any kind of medical person”, but having chatted with friends, young people and mental health charities, she’s seen people with anxiety fall into two camps during lockdown.
“There were people who went into massive anxiety early on because of lockdown – people were unsure about their jobs, but mostly because of health anxiety,” she says.
“But I was also talking to a lot of young people, and they found a solace in it, because of a lack of status anxiety in lockdown.
“A lot of young people live their lives in a ‘compare and despair’ world, and [suddenly] that didn’t exist.”
“Other people can’t work, or they find it very difficult to, so the fact that many people weren’t able to work has given some people a little comfort bubble.”
“With lockdown starting to ease a little bit, we’re now dealing with massive strains on the mental health service, because those people are now getting anxiety.”
She worries for her many friends in the theatre industry, saying: “They are not just losing their jobs, they’re losing their careers. And I’ve found that I’ve got a bit overwhelmed by that.”
So, given her own history of anxiety and depression, what advice does she offer to people dealing with similar feelings?