For Life star Nicholas Pinnock on his breakdown, acting and life in lockdown

  • Watch Nicholas Pinnock speak on life in lockdown

Actor Nicholas Pinnock is best known for his roles in Marcella, Top Boy and most recently For Life.

Off screen the actor keeps his personal life very private, but in a candid interview with host of the Britain Get Talking podcast Kylie Pentelow he has opened up about his mental health.

In some of his toughest moments the actor says he felt “unplugged” from the world, consumed by thoughts of taking his own life.

But having since spent years in therapy and finding tools to help, he now describes his breakdown as a "breakthrough" and says it even prepared him for coping during the coronavirus lockdown.

  • Listen to the full Nicholas Pinnock interview on the Britain Get Talking podcast

Nicholas had a breakdown on February 14, 2006. “The night before, I don’t know what compelled me to do this, but I liken it to a wild animal when they preen before they die,” he said.

“I got a haircut, I’d had a shave, I’d clipped my toenails, I’d clipped my fingernails, I did a scrub on my face.

"I woke up the next morning and the only feeling I can liken it to is I felt like I was unplugged from the world and everything in it. I felt completely disconnected.

“I didn’t feel like I was a part of this world and all I could think about was taking my own life.”

He went to visit a friend and burst into tears. “I didn’t stop crying for about two weeks, then I couldn’t cry,” he said.

“I couldn’t eat, then I couldn’t stop eating. Then I couldn’t talk to anybody, then I couldn’t stop talking. I couldn’t sleep, then I couldn’t stop sleeping.”

Nicholas was later diagnosed with depression and PTSD. “I always call it a breakdown but someone said to me the other day ‘but it was also a breakthrough’ and it genuinely really was," he said.

Speaking on the ITV podcast, Nicholas said carrying the emotions of his characters is something he has had to learn to manage.

"Mentally actors go through a weird transition or fusion with their characters that can sometimes lead to destructive behaviour.

"You force these emotions to be there for the sake of entertainment.

"Your subconscious head has no idea that what you’re doing is a job," he added.

The pandemic has seen many people struggle with their mental health, but Nicholas said spending time in therapy and “self-reflecting” after his breakdown in 2006 prepared him for lockdown.

“I much prefer to be on my own,” he said.

“My inner introvert was, in some ways, really happy for a lockdown because it meant I didn’t have to make any excuses to not go to someone’s birthday or not go to that drink or not go to that dinner.

"Obviously [I was] not happy about the pandemic and what caused it, but there was just something quite relieving about not being around a lot of people.”

Nicholas Pinnock Credit: Simon Emmett

"Spending time on the phone to friends and family, a recurring theme was people were missing the distractions of travel, work, going to the movies, whatever it was.

"[They were] not wanting to, or having the tools to cope with, the feelings which had been there for so long but because of the distractions they had never had to tackle."

Now, despite choosing to keep his personal life private, in part to protect his own mental health, he says he is determined to help others by speaking about his experiences.

“I think until mental health is considered as important as physical health, I am going to keep talking about it until I am heard. Until we are heard. And I think that’s not just by the institutions and the Goverments globally and society, but as individuals,” he said.

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