Hollywood's Goldie Hawn on how to help children cope with the coronavirus and avoid 'negative bias'

Goldie Hawn on the red carpet
Hollywood star Goldie Hawn has campaigned for children's mental health for two decades Credit: PA

Goldie Hawn has been on a mission since 2003.

It was in the years following the World Trade Center attacks in 2001 that the Hollywood actress began a global effort to help children deal with rising cases of anger, aggression, anxiety and depression.

“I was noticing some issues around emotional instability (to the point of) suicide,” Goldie told Julie Etchingham in an exclusive interview ahead of ITV's Tonight programme.

“Fear comes in, depression, there are no tools to deal with it.”

Seventeen years on a new generation of children across the globe are coming to terms with living through the trauma of another crisis with the coronavirus pandemic still untamed.

Goldie said while she believes this invisible enemy is “even worse” to handle mentally than 9/11 she is driven to find the positives and fight against what she describes as the brain's “negative bias”.

Goldie Hawn said she experienced panic attacks in her 20s. Credit: PA

“I do get upset. It hurts my heart to see what goes on but if I cried every day, all day then I couldn’t lift anyone else up. We’re going to have to deal with what we have to deal with.”

Goldie's help for children comes in the form of a MindUP programme, based on neuroscience principles, which is carried out in schools in North America and the UK. It offers a series of mindfulness lessons to help children deal with stress and emotions and form positive relationships.

“There are tools, programmes like mine, which are evidence based,” she told Julie in the Skype interview.

You can listen to Julie and Goldie's full conversation below on the ITV News podcast Coronavirus: What You Need To Know.

Like what you hear? You can listen and subscribe to all the episodes wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

“(By obeying the brain's negative bias) we’re stopped from critical thinking and (it) supplants more positive emotions.”

“We have to do what we can do to help teachers... Let’s start young, let’s give our children all we have as they are going to inherit tomorrow.”

She added: “Even when things get grim, we know that that light at the end of the tunnel is going to get us through.”

And what about in the home?

Goldie Hawn became one of the world's most famous faces. Credit: PA

“Dancing, laughter. If we lose these elements then we’ve lost everything.

“Look how excited I get,” she exclaimed at the end of another impassioned declaration on mental health. “There was a time when I was actually making people laugh!”

It was the starring comedic roles in the likes of Private Benjamin, Overboard and The First Wives Club that made Goldie one of the most recognisable faces in the world.

But behind the very public glamour had been a private battle to come to terms with her own mental struggles at a younger age.

“I was a happy child and (then) I lost my smile for around a year (amid fame in her early 20s),” Goldie told Julie.

“Fear manifests in many ways. I would have panic attacks."

Goldie Hawn and then-husband Gus Trikonis arriving in London in 1970. Credit: PA

So how did a star with the world at her feet find a way to cope with her inner pain?

“I meditated for the first time in 1972. It was the most extraordinary feeling. I was just sitting inside of my heart.

“It’s so important to find peace, calm and security. That’s what changed my life from being anxious at 21 and 22.”

Now a Tinseltown veteran at 74, Goldie is preaching mindfulness at a time when her native America is doing a lot of soul searching amid a remarkably tumultuous 2020.

The pandemic ravaging sections of the United States comes amid race wars on the streets in reaction to the death of George Floyd, while a nation prepares to decide whether to give Donald Trump four more years in the Oval Office.

So is this a moment of crisis for the US?

“I think it is a moment of change. I’ve been through a lot of these moments of change, when we thought it would change, but I think this one will be different,” Goldie said.

The killing of George Floyd brought promises of change. Credit: PA

“It started with the MeToo movement. It’s pretty amazing. ... This part of where we are today is like the forest is burning. I’m not looking at a catastrophe. I’m looking at it as an incredible opportunity.

“Because that’s the only way we’re going to take it forward and our children are going to take it forward.”

She added: “If we don’t sort it, it risks a society out of control.”

So what advice does Goldie have for families in the UK and in particular parents who are grappling with how to guide their children through this unseeable global threat?

“You have to understand your own anxiety and manage it. It has nothing to do with your children. It has to do with you," she said.

“And once you’re able to manage, (learn) how to listen with calm (and) trust that at some point things will be better, can you then be of service to your child.

“You can’t love anyone until you can love yourself. Give yourself the time to realise you are everything to these children.

“You’re the person they want to get angry at. That’s ok. Because you’re stable.”

  • Watch Julie's Tonight programme on ITV at 7.30pm on Thursday 16 July. Generation Covid: Our Children in Crisis? features children talking about how the virus has affected them directly.

  • For more information on The Goldie Hawn Foundation's MindUP programme visit https://mindup.org/