Suranne Jones’ mental health battle

Suranne Jones as Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack
Suranne Jones as Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack Image credit:

Suranne Jones has said her role as Anne Lister in BBC’s drama Gentleman Jack was lifeline as, at the time, she was suffering herself with anxiety and depression.

The 43-year-old actress lost her mother in 2016, six years later in January 2022 Jones’ father passed away, the deaths of both parents has had a profound impact on the actress’ mental health.

At the press launch for season two of Gentleman Jack in Halifax, Jones said: 'I’ve talked a lot about my own mental health. Anne Lister’s mental health was very robust and she was so positive.

'She felt things very deeply but managed to dust herself off and move on. That’s what you need to do.

'That’s something she has taught all of us. I feel it when I watch it.'

The actress’ condition intensified through lockdown and didn’t start to ease until restrictions were lifted.

Jones was hesitate going public with the medication she was taking, aware of the stigma attached to it.

She told listeners to Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast: 'I think there's a huge taboo around it. I decided last night I should because it's important.' 

Jones went on to say she started taking the drugs a year before the pandemic, but made the decision to stop after she ‘felt really good’.

The actress told Fearne:  'The pandemic hit, and my dad got sick. I got a call from my dad and he was grey and he couldn't breathe and he said that he'd done a COVID test and it was positive.

'So my work - Gentleman Jack - sent him a medic and the medic said he needed to go to hospital. 

'He was there for three months in ICU. He didn't make it and then I got COVID myself at Christmas.

'At that point I felt like I wasn't coping again so I had to go on medication.

'I think it's important to say that I'm doing great and I'm still filming my job and professionally I've always been really strong and on point.

'But I'm on medication, and at some point I'll need to get off that.'

It’s not the first time Jones has taken the medication, she was prescribed them after losing her mother.

'She slowly got worse and she developed dementia and she was in a home. In 2016 I had my son, and by the end of 2016 I lost my mum,’ she said.

'What I did was go straight into work because I thought well, I'll take a job because I want to show that I'm back in the game.'

But Jones returned to work too early, resulting in a meltdown witnessed by hundreds of people.

'I had a very public breakdown on stage in front of the audience and there was a build up to it that I didn't recognise,’ she recalled.

'I thought it's OK, I've got this brilliant opportunity - Gentleman Jack - I'm going to do it because I think it will help me. It did to a certain point.'    

Gentleman Jack is on BBC One, Sundays at 9pm and available to watch on BBC iPlayer.