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Fearne Cotton: ‘Being honest about depression stops it being a dark secret’


Fearne Cotton: ‘Being honest about depression stops it being a dark secret’

Fearne Cotton

The TV and radio presenter is on a mission to get the nation talking about how they feel.

Having suffered from depression the TV and radio presenter, 36, believes it’s essential to be open and honest about mental health.

“The most important thing is to be open and talk about it,” she says.

“I look at my own mother who had depression throughout her life but who was brought up in the post-war mentality where you didn’t talk about things. You kept it all within.

“That can be very destructive and can lead to feelings of alienation and helplessness. But talking, opening up and hearing other people’s stories can really help.”

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She then appeared on CBBC’s Eureka TV and The Saturday Show until 2003 when she left to present a Top Of The Pops spin-off show on the BBC.

Since then she has been a regular on our screens, hosting BBC charity telethons for Comic Relief and Children In Need and appearing as a panellist on ITV’s Celebrity Juice alongside best friend Holly Willoughby.

She also presented her own show on Radio 1 from 2005 to 2015 and continues to appear on Radio 2.

Yet although she is known for her bubbly demeanour on screen, Fearne has been open about her struggles with depression in the past, saying the condition left her feeling “antisocial and cut-off”.

“I certainly felt when I was going through different levels of darkness that I had to keep it in,” she says.

“But if you let it out, you immediately dispel a lot of the shame surrounding it. It stops being a dark secret as soon as you start speaking.”

Fearne CottonGETTY

Fearne has hosted BBC charity telethons for Children In Need and Comic Relief

Having been in the public eye since she was a teenager, Fearne says she feels a sense of responsibility to use her fame to raise awareness so decided to speak out about her own experiences of mental health problems.

“I think if I’m going to have this weird tag of being in the public eye, I may as well use it for something otherwise it’s absolutely pointless,” says Fearne, whose lifestyle book Happy: Finding Joy In Every Day And Letting Go Of Perfect, released earlier this year, discusses her experiences of depression.

“I’ve got to a place after 20 years doing this job where some people might be interested in what I’m saying.

“So I might as well use that in a really positive way, in a way that will hopefully bring others comfort. It seems like a worthwhile thing to do in my industry, which can be joyful and brilliant but can also be vacuous.”

The showbiz industry has been under fire in recent weeks with several high-profile figures being accused of sexual harassment.

When asked about the dark side of fame, Fearne says: “People are either going to feel comfortable or uncomfortable sharing their experiences and that’s completely up to the individual.

“I don’t have the experience or understanding of what that horrific ordeal would feel like. It’s not a nice thing to have been through, it’s awful.”

Fearne is married to Jesse Wood, member of rock band Reef and son of Rolling Stones legend Ronnie.

The couple live in west London with their two children Rex, four, and two-year-old Honey.

Being open and honest is something Fearne says can be especially hard as a parent.

“As a mum you get tied up in feeling guilty about stuff. If you’re having a bad day you wonder how it’s affecting them,” she says.

“But you’ve got to be real about it. If you are having a bad day, that’s no bad thing. It’s good for children to see your emotions. It’s good to tell them it’s OK to be sad or angry.

Fearne Cotton and Jesse WoodGETTY

Fearne is married to Jesse Wood

“Blokes especially often don’t want to talk. So it’s important to tell the next generation of boys it’s fine to feel sad, to show vulnerability and to not feel OK.”

Fearne, who has 7.4 million Twitter followers and two million on Instagram, says social media can have a big part to play in self-esteem issues.

“When you watch a movie you know it’s a fantasy. But with social media people view it as being completely factual.

“It makes you think, ‘Everyone else has it sorted but me’. But it’s not real. It’s hard to disconnect from it.”

And Fearne finds it just as tough to switch off as the rest of us.

“At the moment I’m trying to spend less time on social media, unless there are things I really want to say. I can get addicted to looking and comparing myself to other people and that is never a positive thing.

Holly Willoughby and Fearne Cotton on their friendship

“When I’m not feeling as strong I defi nitely put some rules around it. Like not being on it in the daytime and being around my kids instead and doing lovely things.”

Fearne is careful when posting pictures of her children online not to show their faces.

“What if they want to grow up and be a private person, who wants to go off and be a doctor or a marine biologist and wants nothing to do with the fact that their mum was on the TV and their dad was in a band?” she says.

“It’s up to them how they lead their life and how public or private that is. When Rex and Honey are teenagers they can do whatever they like but I’m allowing them to make that decision for themselves.

“Although if I didn’t give myself that rule, like most parents I’d be posting pictures of them every two minutes because they’re so cute.”

After enjoying a busy career for many years Fearne now has a better work-life balance, which allows her to spend more time at home.

Fearne Cotton

Fearne has been open about her struggles with depression in the past

“I feel much more in control of my work-life balance now. I’ve always been a bit of a homebody anyway. Now I go out very rarely and when I do will hopefully be in bed by about 11pm.

“Most of my time is spent at home with the kids and I’m really happy doing that.

“My house isn’t necessarily calm because I have young children but I can find calm among the chaos.”

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