Joanna Lumley: People need to ‘get a grip’ and stop jumping on the mental health bandwagon

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Dame Joanna Lumley has been open about her personal struggles, including a six-month breakdown - Paul Grover for the Telegraph
Dame Joanna Lumley has been open about her personal struggles, including a six-month breakdown - Paul Grover for the Telegraph

Mental health is “overplayed” and some people are just sad, Dame Joanna Lumley has said.

The actress and campaigner, who has lent her support to mental health charities, has claimed many people are jumping on the “mental illness bandwagon”.

Dame Joanna has stated there is a difference between being “sad” and being mentally ill, and suggested some people need to “get a grip”.

She said: “This is a horrible thing to say, but I think the mental health thing is being overplayed at the moment because anybody who is even remotely sad says they have got mental problems.

“You go: ‘This is what is called being human’. When someone dies and you grieve, that’s human. That’s what being a human is. You’re not mentally ill.

“And I think it also is awful to people who really are mentally ill or are properly clinically depressed, for everybody to say they’ve got to have some sort of special treatment.

“And everyone’s claiming the mental illness bandwagon and I think that’s wrong.”

She added that the British “the stiff upper lip and not blubbing” was “much-derided”.

The Absolutely Fabulous star was made a dame in the New Year Honours for services to entertainment and charitable causes, and has backed mental health charities such as Mind as part of her work.

Openness about personal struggles

Dame Joanna has also been open about her own struggles, including a period of suffering “burnout” in her 20s as a single mother raising her son Jamie, which led her to walk out on work commitments.

She has also previously revealed suffering a six-month breakdown, after fearing rifles were being aimed at her in the Garrick theatre.

Dame Joanna Lumley with her husband Stephen Barlow (left) and her son Jamie Lumley (right)
Dame Joanna Lumley with her husband Stephen Barlow (left) and her son Jamie Lumley (right)

During an interview with Isabel Oakeshott, a GB News presenter, Dame Joanna stressed the difference between suffering normal troubles and enduring serious mental illness.

Quoting a poem by Adam Lindsay Gordon, a 19th-century British-Australian poet, she recited lines that praise showing kindness towards others, and displaying “courage” in the face of adversity.

She said: “And if you think of that, just get a grip. Do you know what I mean?

“Of course some of you are going to feel bloody awful and some of you may well be suicidal or mentally depressed, that’s a different thing.

“But anybody who just goes, ‘Oh burr’ - you just think, ‘Get over it’.”

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