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Joanna Lumley: Mental illness is ‘overplayed’ – with emotion part of being human

Dame Joanna Lumley suggested many people are “claiming the mental illness bandwagon” and told them: “Just get a grip” (Ian West/PA)
Dame Joanna Lumley suggested many people are “claiming the mental illness bandwagon” and told them: “Just get a grip” (Ian West/PA)

Dame Joanna Lumley suggested many people are “claiming the mental illness bandwagon” and told them: “Just get a grip.”

The actress, 75, known for her role as Patsy Stone in Absolutely Fabulous, said there is a difference between those who experience emotions such as grief and those who are “properly clinically depressed”.

Dame Joanna also praised the British “stiff upper lip” in the face of personal challenges.

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Joanna Lumley admitted her beliefs may come across as ‘horrible’ (Ian West/PA)

During an interview about Dame Joanna’s campaigning for animal welfare, journalist and GB News presenter Isabel Oakeshott asked about her support of mental health charities.

The actress said: “I have to say – 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.

“Although much derided, the stiff upper lip and not blubbing and trying to get on with it…”

Dame Joanna quoted a poem by 19th century British-Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon, which features the words: “Life is mostly froth and bubble / Two things stand like stone / Kindness in another’s trouble / Courage in your own.”

She added: “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’.”

The comedian and TV presenter was made a dame in the New Year Honours for services to drama, entertainment and charitable causes.

She was made an OBE in 1995 and received the Bafta TV Fellowship at a star-studded ceremony in 2017.

Anyone who needs support should call Samaritans free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans’ website.

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