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Sunday Life

The Fall star Niamh McGrady: I've suffered from anxiety all of my life

Star reveals mental health struggles

Niamh McGrady attends the UK Premiere of
Niamh McGrady attends the UK Premiere of "Fifty Shades Darker" at the Odeon Leicester Square on February 9, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)
Niamh McGrady attends The Raindance Independent Filmmaker's Ball at Cafe de Paris on April 18, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

By Martin Breen

The Fall star Niamh McGrady has revealed she has battled anxiety and depression throughout her life.

In a revealing chat with journalist Eamonn Mallie for his UTV show this Tuesday, the Castlewellan actress says she believes the legacy of the Troubles has created a huge mental issue in Northern Ireland.

Calling for more investment in mental health services here, the 36-year-old tells him: "I have experienced anxiety and depression off and on since my teens. It's something I have always had to be aware of in my own life. I feel very strongly that there are issues in Northern Ireland that aren't being addressed as far as mental health is concerned.

"The suicide rate here is the highest it has ever been. More people have taken their own lives since the Good Friday Agreement than were killed during the whole of the conflict here.

"It's a post-conflict society. I would certainly attribute some of my mental health issues to growing up in this environment. It wasn't healthy. It wasn't until I moved away to Wales that I realised how toxic it was to be surrounded by violence all the time," she adds.

"There is so much trauma here that is unhealed. Until the investment is there we are going to keep losing people. Progress is always going to be held back. Mental health investment is not coming here and Northern Ireland needs it more than anywhere else in Europe.

"I would argue that PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is something that a lot of people here are living with. I think that is definitely a factor. People could be living with it and not even realise."

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Niamh, who played Constable Danielle Ferrington in The Fall alongside Jamie Dornan and nurse Maire-Claire Carter in the medical soap Holby City, talks on Eamonn Mallie's Face to Face With about her own struggles and suffering panic attacks. She tells the broadcaster about how she struggled when she first moved to Cardiff to go to drama school, something she says she was "by no means mentally or emotionally prepared for".

"I now know looking back through my experiences as an adult and having experienced anxiety and depression, looking back then I wasn't particularly well," the star admits.

After graduating in Cardiff she moved to London where she featured in a West End production of Shakespeare's Macbeth, starring X-Men and Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart.

It then relocated to Broadway in New York in 2008 but when Niamh returned home she found herself unemployed and working in a private members club in London.

However, she later secured a role in long-running TV drama Holby City, which she described as her "dream job".

But throughout her career she still struggled with mental health, suffering panic attacks before acting auditions.

"I was presenting to A&E thinking I had vertigo and all sort of issues. What I was really experiencing were panic attacks and I had no idea what a panic attack was.

"When I first started experiencing them they were usually triggered by any situation which I felt was unfamiliar, so meeting new groups of people or sometimes on the morning of auditions."

Niamh, who married last year, reveals to Mallie she is happy now and gives a message of hope to all those battling depression and anxiety.

Niamh Mcgrady attends the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards at The Grosvenor House Hotel on October 24, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)
Niamh Mcgrady attends the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards at The Grosvenor House Hotel on October 24, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)

"I am in excellent shape. Depression and anxiety is not a life sentence. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.

"My main focus at this moment in time is to be happy. Being happy takes a conscious effort, you have to work hard at it.

"At this moment in time I feel really happy and I feel that is a huge achievement," she says.

Eamonn Mallie Face to Face with Niamh McGrady is on UTV on Tuesday at 10.45pm

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