Fern Britton health: ‘It’s very physical and consumes you’ TV star opens up about health

Sunday Brunch: Paddy McGuinness talks about his anxiety

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Fern Britton has had an impressive career on television thanks in part to her bubbly and compassionate demeanour. Lifting people’s mood during her early mornings on ITV’s This Morning segment became a way of life for her but, beneath it all, she kept a dark secret.

“I now understand what can trigger an episode – in my case tiredness, anxiety, life changes or upheavals,” she candidly revealed in an interview with Somerset Live.

“Although I’ve been well now for quite a while and I’m not on medication or expecting another episode, I’m sure one will come along, that’s just the way of it, but I don’t have the dread of it.

“You just have to stand still, let it crash into you and go out the other side. It’s very physical and consumes you when it happens.”

She added: “I think of it as a black cloak which has been put over me.”

Sufferers of anxiety and depression has steadily increased over the years with one in four people experiencing some kind of mental health problem in the UK according to MIND.

The Covid pandemic has hit those sufferers even harder due to isolation and the uncertainty it has brought.

Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia and anxiety, it’s been reported.


Talking therapy has been shown to be highly effective in helping those suffering from mental health problems.

There are a variety of different options which include:

  • Group-based CBT
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT)
  • Behavioural activation
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • Behavioural couples therapy – if you have a long-term partner, and your doctor agrees that it would be useful to involve them in your treatment.

For Fern taking antidepressants gave her some solace.

She said: “I always thought I would be on them until I died – because why would I want to stop taking something that was keeping me stable?”

Ms Britton believes such problems are common for older people who struggle to come to terms with having to lead a different life.

“So many people have a fantastic life. They cruise through until they’re 60 and then – bang. They haven’t got the tools to deal with it.”

Fortunately for the TV star she managed to get the help she needed and, according to the Yorkshire Evening Post, stopped taking anti-depressants after meeting her second husband, TV chef Phil Vickery.

She says that while her mental health issues haven’t completely disappeared, a combination of exercise and healthy eating is now allowing her to lead a more peaceful life.

Symptoms of mental health issues may include:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping.

For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or visit a local Samaritans branch.

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