Claire Skinner

Claire Skinner

Actress Claire Skinner, discusses why she got involved with saving the Parents Helpline in 2014, and how TV can play its part to break down the stigma on mental illness.

Why have you become a YoungMinds Ambassador?

In 2014 my neighbour, who had been volunteering with the YoungMinds Parents Helpline, asked me if I wanted to be involved in the Save the Helpline campaign. She explained to me that they provided a frontline service for worried families looking for support and advice with their children's mental health.

It struck a particular chord with me as one of my sons had run into some emotional and mental health problems and I wish I had known this resource existed. When we sought help from CAMHS we found a service that was so severely stretched financially that they couldn't offer us any tangible advice or support. So when my neighbour asked I was more than happy to get involved with a charity that tries to bridge the gap.

How do you think parents can support each other to improve the mental health and emotional wellbeing of their children?

When my son was going through his difficulties there were times when I had never felt so isolated and unsure. I think one of the most important things a parent can do is talk to other parents and be honest about what is going on-often times they are going through similar things with their children and it helps to feel you are not on your own or doing something wrong.

I also think that schools need to take a more honest approach and not just pay lip service to the emotional well being of their pupils.

What role do you think television can have in breaking down the stigma on mental illness, advancing understanding and helping those suffering?

I want us to tell more stories about a wider variety of characters young/old/men/women/big/small- stories about people's experiences rather than how attractive they are.

If you’re feeling drained and down after a bad day, what do you do to feel better?

Work also can be brilliantly diverting and fun and I'm very lucky to have a job I love doing most of the time. 

For me running has been a huge help when I am low or stressed and I really notice a change in my mood when I haven't exercised for a while. I also like to have an absorbing book on the go for bedtime.

You are an admired stage and screen actress. What advice would you give to someone starting out with similar aspirations?

My advice to anyone wanting to go into acting would be if you love it - do it. But always remember that you have to harden your stomach and not your heart.

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If you’re aged 14 to 25, then you are key to our mission. We want to put young people at the heart of everything we do whether it’s raising awareness of mental health problems, promoting wellbeing in schools or having your say on how mental health services are delivered in the UK.

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It was the first moment I felt like I had real influence. It was special because, when you have depression, you don’t feel like much of what you do has an impact on the world.
Aaliyah, Youth Activist
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