By Lucy Jackson | @lucy@breathe_n
Sub-edited by Philippa Strachan (@philippastrac) and Ella Thwaits
In a series of recent interviews, actress Keira Knightly has called on the government to provide more funding to be ring-fenced for mental health services after describing her own experience of PTSD and anxiety.
Arriving at the premiere of her new film Colette, in October this year, Knightly explained how all are affected by mental health issues at some point: “Everybody, no matter who you are, has a tricky time in your life, the important thing is that you can get the help that you need to get through that.’
She went on to state her fears on funding in the UK: “I think the big problem in this country at the moment is that we have major funding cuts to our mental health institutes and we need to majority say that this should be ring-fenced”
Knightly, now 33, was still a teenager when success and fame hit after starring in Bend it Like Beckham in 2002. This was followed by The Pirates of the Caribbean films which resulted in PTSD and a mental breakdown aged 22, leaving her housebound. “I hadn’t been out of the house for three months when the BAFTA nomination happened, and I remember having conversations with my agent and going, ‘I can’t get there,’ and everyone going, ‘If you don’t get to the BAFTAs, the heat on you is going to be 10 times more,'” Knightly told the Hollywood Reporter. “So I actually did hypnotherapy so that I could stand on the red carpet at the BAFTAs and not have a panic attack.”
However the heightened fame and intense pressure culminated in what Knightly described as a mental breakdown—and, ultimately, a diagnosis of PTSD: “I did have a mental breakdown at 22, so I did take a year off there and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because of all of that stuff,” she said, “I went deep into therapy and all of that”. Knightly decided to take some time out of the spotlight, which she now looks back on as “one of the most important years of my life.”
Knightly, in a follow-up interview with CNN, told them whilst she was fortunate to have the finances to have this year off, most other people cannot afford this luxury and that with the mental health crisis in England she fears for others who are unable to access help: “the funding is so low, unless you have money it is a postcode lottery and that terrifies me for many people out there as the reality of our world is you will have times in life where things will make you crack up and unless the help is there I don’t know how people will get through that”.
Her claims on the funding crisis are also highlighted in a recent report by Mental health charity Young Minds which has found that three-quarters of young people (meaning people under the age of 25) seeking support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are becoming more unwell during the wait for treatment. After surveying more than 2,000 parents and carers with children seeking help with their mental health, the charity found that the longer the children were left to wait, the more their mental health deteriorated. Over three-quarters (76%) of parents said that their children’s mental health worsened while waiting for support from CAMHS.
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute have also said that even more flexibility is needed in the workplace with part-time preventative sick leave, which would help those facing mental health difficulties. The research has found that 2.3 million people in the UK are affected by mental health problems that affect their work life.
In answer to the recent figures, the Government in the recent October 2018 budget has a pledged £2bn funding boost with the funds going towards making mental health support available in every A&E department and a new 24-hour mental health hotline. However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has argued that the pledge is not enough stating “the new money is only half of what is needed”.
Knightly herself is now in a better place but still has fears about the inequality in access to help, she told the BBC: “I’m in a very lucky place… where I can demand certain things. That is not the case for every single woman,” she added.