Helen Flanagan details 'really scary' breakdown that saw kids move out and her miss out on 'dream job'

Helen Flanagan
Helen Flanagan -Credit:Helen Flanagan Instagram

Helen Flanagan has shared details of her 'really scary' breakdown for the first time. The actress took a lengthy break from social media and the spotlight following a scary health scare which she briefly opened up about earlier this year.

The first fans heard of her ill health was first mentioned when she was forced to pull out of her stage debut in Cluedo 2 - The Next Chapter where she was meant to play Miss Scarlett. A statement at the time revealed she had pulled out for "medical reasons" and was replaced by former co-star and Strictly Come Dancing winner Ellie Leach.

But in March, Helen, 33, opened up about what's been going on and told her fans how she'd been struggling with her mental health since before Christmas and then, earlier this year, had a 'bad reaction' to ADHD medication that sent her into 'psychosis'.

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In her first interview since her health scare, Helen has told the Mirror that she faced an emotional struggle after splitting from footballer fiancé Scott Sinclair after 13 years together. Her nightmare began after what looked like a dream New Year’s break in Bali with their children Matilda, eight, Delilah, five, and Charlie, three.

Behind the stream of smiley photos she posted, Helen admits she was in turmoil. She said: "My kids weren’t with me on Christmas Day because I like to be really fair with my ex, and it sounds so silly because it was only one day, but it hit me really hard. The plan was for me to take them to Bali for New Year instead, and although I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel myself. I was struggling. I felt terrible when I got back. I was crying all the time, I felt so low."

The former Coronation Street star, who is famed for playing Rosie Webster in the ITV soap, has said she now realises she was carrying unresolved trauma over the 2022 split with Scott, 35.

Speaking out ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, Helen said: “I don’t see it as a break-up, I see it as a divorce. We were together 13 years. But instead of processing it all, I threw myself into work and shut off my emotions. I just went into survival mode. Then it all came to the surface earlier this year and I was mentally and physically breaking down.”

Helen in Bali with her three children -Credit:Helen Flanagan Instagram
Helen in Bali with her three children -Credit:Helen Flanagan Instagram

Struggling to feel “normal”, she started medicating her ADHD but suffered an "awful reaction" to her prescription and went into a psychotic episode. Tearful Helen said: "It was really sad and very scary. I was seeing things and I felt like I was in danger all the time."

The hardest part, she says, was not realising what was happening at the time. Her nanny contacted her parents, Julia and Paul, to alert them that something was wrong and Helen agreed for her kids to stay with them while she got help. "I wanted to do what was best for the kids and that was the right decision," she said. "I saw them every day because it was important for them to see me getting stronger."

As mentioned, she had to pull out of playing Miss Scarlett in the theatre tour of Cluedo 2, as it called for months on the road. Helen said: "I was having a breakdown, I couldn’t have travelled alone. I needed my friends and family, and to be there for my kids.... I was heartbroken. It was my dream job and I thought I’d ruined my career. But I knew I needed to deal with things so I wouldn’t ever get to that place again."

As a part of her healing and recovery, Helen has rediscovered her love of exercise. She also found tackling long-overdue tasks, such as de-cluttering her home, has cleared her mind and helped ­tackle the trauma. She said: "I love work but my kids need me at home more. Having that time off was healthy, it changed my life in a way."

Helen’s healing work has also aided her co-parenting relationship with Bristol Rovers player Scott. When they broke up and the children were staying with him, Helen would escape her empty house by going to London to drink. "Now I really love it," she shared. "I stay at home, watch TV or do pilates, go for a run or a swim."

Helen with her ex Scott Sinclair -Credit:Helen Flanagan Instagram
Helen with her ex Scott Sinclair -Credit:Helen Flanagan Instagram

She has always appreciated "two happy homes are better than one unhappy home" and she and Scott are in a "better place than ever". Helen continued: "I don’t want to live with toxic feelings, I want to get on with the father of my kids and he’s the same. When we found each other on a dating app we had a laugh about it, which shows how far we’ve come.” Asked how the app worked out for her, she said: “I went on a few dates. They were lovely but I don’t really like the idea of choosing a partner based on looks. I still believe in love and The One but I think I’ll go with the flow. I hadn’t been on the dating scene for 13 years so it’s like a whole new world.”

Helen hopes to be a good example for her kids, saying: "I love my children more than anything but we don’t own our kids – we bring them up, love them, give them everything, then you have to let them go. It’s important we don’t lose ourselves as mums, that I still have my own identity. I want them to see me as fearless.” And Helen was certainly fearless when she risked judgemental comments by posing in lingerie for Ann Summers recently."

She said: "Just because we’re mums doesn’t mean we can’t be sexy, right? I love to dress sexy and I’ve always done lingerie modelling – it’s empowering. I’m all for women embracing their bodies and feeling good. I get a bit stick for it on social media but so what? I’m very much a free spirit and just like to be myself."

Helen still struggles talking about this year’s trauma but is determined to help dispel the stigma around mental health, having seen the huge positives that came out of her darkest moments. She said: "I don’t think I’d have worked on my relationship with Scott if it hadn’t happened, so the time out changed everything for the better.

"I’ve always been open, it’s partly my personality and partly my ADHD. I know I’m lucky. I’ve got beautiful children and lots of good things in my life. I hope talking might make someone feel less alone."