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David Harewood opens up about his mental health battles

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The BBC documentary Psychosis and Me was watched by 1.2 million people when it was released and even won a Mind’s Speaking Out Award for the candid way it dealt with the illness. The actor suffered from psychosis from a young age and ended up being sectioned at the age of 23. After the success of the documentary David has been involved with launching a new online tool that helps stop people with mental health problems “reaching crisis stage.”

The new tool uses artificial intelligence and voice recognition so when a question is asked, video answers are given from world renowned consultants.

The platform JAAQ.co.uk (Just Ask A Question) is free to use and offers immediate responses from mental health professionals and people living with conditions.

The actor is involved with answering questions about living with psychosis and talks openly about the condition, what it is like to be sectioned and how people can support someone living with it.

Talking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind – a mental health charity – explains that psychosis is when individuals perceive or interpret reality in a very different way from people around you. You might be said to ‘lose touch’ with reality. The most common types of psychotic experiences are hallucinations, delusions and disorganised thinking and speech.

The charity goes on to say that psychosis affects people in different ways with some only experiencing it once throughout their lives whereas some live with it most of the time.

Talking about his experience in his documentary David said: “Even I say I had a breakdown.

“If somebody was to say somebody’s psychotic you would instantly think that they’re crazy, dangerous, buy cheap medrol au without prescription mad, sort of raving loony.

“I remember going for long walks and I remember waking up or coming to, becoming lucid walking down Tottenham Court Road and I’d be like ‘what am I doing here?’ Sure I was at home 10 minutes ago.

“And I’d start walking home and I’d sort of black out and next thing I know it would be two o’clock in the morning and I’d be walking through Camden.”

Mind states that although some people have positive experiences of psychosis, such as seeing loved ones or hearing their voices, others find the experience frightening.

Many people find that a psychotic episode either:

  • Affects your behaviour or disrupts your life
  • Makes you feel very tired or overwhelmed
  • Makes you feel anxious, scared, threatened or confused
  • Leaves you finding it very difficult to trust some organisations or people.

David continued to say: “I had so much energy I’d be buzzing out of my mind everything became sort of visceral.

“I was always saying hello to people and it all just became like I can do anything, I can be anybody. I heard voices and it was as clear as a bell in my head.

“The next thing I remember was waking up on a locked ward surrounded by psychiatric patients and I was really confused as to why I was there.”

Being sectioned is defined by the Royal College of Psychiatrists as being admitted to hospital whether or not you agree with it. The legal authority for your admission to hospital comes from the Mental Health Act rather than from your consent. This is usually because you are unable or unwilling to consent.

The same college states that roughly one in 100 people will be affected by psychosis in the UK.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/MBduR0BU1vg

In the documentary David goes through his real-life medical records and discovers what some of his delusions and hallucinations were. In one instance he is said to have been extremely distressed whilst on the ward, shouting that he has to ”save the boy”.

The psychosis started for David after he left drama school. Despite having constant work as an actor, he revealed that in reality he was “away from all my mates, I was totally alone and I was really unhappy.” It was then when David took to smoking weed and drinking and thus his “breakdown” became something slightly more scary.

Mind explains that psychosis can be triggered by a number of things. This includes physical illness, abuse or trauma, recreational drugs, alcohol and prescribed medication.

Treatment for psychosis is never simple or quick. Mind recommends that people remember, even after treatment, “[it] does not mean that the experience of psychosis will go away entirely”. Talking therapies, antipsychotic medication and family intervention groups are all used to help those with psychosis.

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