‘I had a very public breakdown on stage in front of the audience and there was a build-up to it that I didn’t recognise,’ actor says
Suranne Jones is attempting to break the “huge taboo” around medication for mental health issues by revealing she is currently taking it herself.
The I am Victoria star appeared on Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast where she revealed she is back on medication following the death of her father in January.
Jones explained that she was first prescribed medication after the death of her mother in 2016, when she suffered a “big breakdown”.
“In 2016 I had my son, at the end of February, and by the end of 2016 I lost my mum,” she said.
“What I did was I went into work because I thought ‘Well, I’ll take a job because I want to show that I’m back in the game’, which is a whole other conversation about mums, especially actresses, saying ‘I can do it all, don’t write me off.’”
Jones said she struggled with the play she was starring in, a 2018 production of Bryony Lavery’s Frozen, due to its difficult subject matter: “I had a very public breakdown on stage in front of the audience and there was a build-up to it that I didn’t recognise.
“At that point you would think I would stop, but instead I thought ‘It’s OK, I’ve got this brilliant opportunity – Gentleman Jack – I’m going to do it because I think it will help me.’ It did to a certain point because Anne Lister is such a beautiful character to portray,” she continued.
A combination of family struggles and 14-hour working days became unmanageable, she explained, as she had yet to properly grieve for her mother.
“So, after the first Gentleman Jack I had a really big breakdown and I was offered medication, and I took it,” she said. “And I didn’t want to. Kicking and screaming, I took it, but I was so far gone by that point, because I’d had the death of my mother and then I’d gone on to do two huge shows, and my husband did not know how to help me and we could see that all these things that I was trying to grasp on to to keep my life well and sorted weren’t working anymore.”
Jones said she went off medication for “about a year”, before the pandemic hit. Her father was later diagnosed with Covid-19 and spent months in ICU.
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“He didn’t make it, and eventually I got to say goodbye but in the full PPE, and then I got Covid myself at Christmas,” Jones said. “At that point I felt like I wasn’t coping again so I had to go on medication again.
“I think it’s important to say that I’m doing great and I’m still filming my job and professionally I’ve always been really strong and on point. But I’m on medication, and at some point I’ll aim to get off that, but I think there’s a huge taboo around it and I wasn’t going to say it but I decided last night I should because it’s important.”
Additional reporting by Press Association.
If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email email@example.com, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.
If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.