Helen Flanagan opens up on 'scary and sad' psychotic breakdown

Helen Flanagan
Helen Flanagan -Credit:Dave Benett/Getty Images for Sexy Fish Manchester

Helen Flanagan has opened up about her harrowing mental health struggle following her split from ex-fiance and footballer Scott Sinclair.

The former Coronation Street actress, 33, shared how she experienced a "very scary" psychotic episode after the couple parted ways, following 13 years together.

Taking their children - Matilda, eight, Delilah, five, and Charlie, three - for a New Year's trip to Bali wasn't enough to ward off the overwhelming feeling of turmoil and despite sharing happy snaps from the holiday, Helen admits she was battling inner demons.

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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."

As we approach Mental Health Awareness week, which starts on Monday, Helen took part in an emotional interview with the Mirror. She said she now realises she was carrying unresolved trauma over the 2022 split with Scott, 35.

Helen shared her heartache and 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."

She recounted her struggle to feel "normal" and how she started medicating her ADHD, only to have an "awful reaction" to the prescription that led to a psychotic episode. A tearful Helen recalled: "It was really sad and very scary. I was seeing things and I felt like I was in danger all the time."

Helen reflected on the difficulty of not understanding what was happening at the time. It was her nanny who contacted her parents, Julia and Paul, to raise the alarm, leading Helen to make the tough decision for her kids to stay with them while she sought help.

She explained: "I wanted to do what was best for the kids and that was the right decision. I saw them every day because it was important for them to see me getting stronger."

The situation forced Helen to withdraw from her role as Miss Scarlett in the theatre tour of Cluedo 2, which would have required extensive travel. She admitted: "I was having a breakdown, I couldn't have travelled alone. I needed my friends and family, and to be there for my kids."

Helen first joined Coronation Street as Rosie Webster at just nine years old and featured in more than 1,000 episodes until 2018. Recalling her exit from Cluedo 2, she confessed: "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."

Having since caught up with the show, Helen complimented her replacement and fellow Corrie star Ellie Leach, 23, for her performance. Keeping busy with exercise has formed part of her journey towards healing and recovery, along with tackling jobs around the house like decluttering, which she found helped clear her mind and deal with her trauma.

She reflected: "I love work but my kids need me at home more. Having that time off was healthy, it changed my life in a way."

Her road to recovery also influenced her co-parenting relationship with Bristol Rovers player Scott Sinclair. When they split and their children were with him, Helen would often leave her empty house to visit London for a drink.

Now, however, she's content staying at home: "Now I really love it. I stay at home, watch TV or do pilates, go for a run or a swim."

Being able to co-parent amicably has been important for Helen who holds the belief that "two happy homes are better than one unhappy home". According to her, she and Scott are stronger than ever, stating: "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."

Relating her experience with dating apps, Helen admitted: "I went on a few dates. The people 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 just go with the flow. I hadn't been on the dating scene for 13 years so it's like a whole new world."

The mum-of-two shared an important message on parenting, stating: "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."

Showing no fear of judgement, Helen recently posed in lingerie for Ann Summers. She defended her decision by saying: "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."

While many fans have asked if she would consider following former Hollyoaks star Sarah Jayne Dunn onto adult content site OnlyFans, Helen was quick to say: "What she's done is amazing. But I just don't really fancy it. I don't know why some people have a problem with what other people do, I think each to their own."

Helen is now focusing on building a strong emotional connection with her children to support their mental well-being. She shared: "Matilda is a little angel. She's definitely more sensitive. Delilah is like me, we've got similar personalities. She's hilarious. And Charlie is beautiful, a gorgeous, cute little boy."

Despite finding it difficult to discuss the traumatic events of this year, Helen is committed to breaking down the barriers surrounding mental health issues, drawing strength from the positive outcomes of her most challenging times. She explained: "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."

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