BAFTA-winning actor Adam Deacon: ‘I had a breakdown in lockdown – I want to speak out about mental health’
After suffering a manic bipolar episode during the COVID-19 lockdown, actor Adam Deacon writes about his experience for Sky News.
Actor and rapper Adam Deacon starred in films such as Kidulthood and Adulthood, and picked up BAFTA’s rising star award in 2012 – ahead of Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth and Chris O’Dowd. However, a breakdown in 2014 and a public row with actor and director Noel Clarke led to a restraining order in 2015.
Here, he reveals how he suffered another breakdown and serious panic attack, at one point believing he might die, during the coronavirus lockdown. He also talks about his regrets over posts he made on social media – and how he is determined to help others going through similar experiences with mental health problems.
It started with the death of my friend.
Before that, I already had underlying feelings of being afraid, right from the start of the coronavirus pandemic. I have an elderly mum who lives apart from me with underlying health issues, so her catching the virus was always a worry. She was my biggest concern, and I watched the news every night and took everything that was being said very seriously.
But at the same time it also seemed like none of it was real. I knew people were confined to their houses, but I didn’t see it affecting anyone I know. It was hard to comprehend.
Five years ago, I was diagnosed as bipolar. Lockdown was a difficult time; I felt like I went through every single emotion. I couldn’t see anyone and at times it was very lonely.
Music helped me, and I recorded a song, Corona Grime, to express my feelings. I also had regular chats with friends online.
Then, all of a sudden, I was hit with the news that a good friend, Sean Mitchell, had died with COVID-19.
Sean was like the glue that held our group together. A singer who sang on the famous garage track Celebrate Life, by Brasstooth, I had always looked up to him as a role model; he truly was a wonderful soul and had an amazing energy.
He had also helped me through a lot of troubling times and his death really hit me hard, harder than I could have imagined. I found it extremely difficult not being able to grieve in a normal way, surrounded by the love and support of our friends and family.
I wasn’t able to go to his funeral. I wish I could have been there but I couldn’t due to the restrictions. It was streamed live on YouTube and I watched from home.
We were all so close as a unit but at the same time the pandemic had made us feel so distant.
Then, not long after Sean had passed away, I watched the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement taking place after the death of George Floyd in America.
This deeply affected me too.
I’ve always been passionate about human rights and it seemed right to express my views. I felt a duty to try and educate people who could potentially harbour racist views, so I posted many images and statements, had heated discussions lasting day and night, and watched as people all over the internet stood up for their rights.
This highly pressurised moment in time triggered me into a manic bipolar episode. It took over, and I began posting about my own personal conflicts.
Before I knew it, I had gone days without any food or sleep. Looking back now, I can see my posts continued to get stranger and stranger. My family and friends were starting to really worry about me, but at that time I was so focused on what I was saying I couldn’t understand their concern.
After five days, I began to realise that what I was posting was wrong – and could also set me back a long way in my career. I had worked so hard in the last six years to turn things around after my 2014 breakdown and I was terrified I might have ruined this hard work.
I collapsed to the floor in a panic attack, unable to breathe. I called 999, believing in that moment that I could die.
Within 20 minutes the police and paramedics were rushing to my door and I was taken to hospital. There, I was made to wait eight hours, which was extremely distressing.
I was later transferred to a different hospital, the Globe ward at Mile End, where I spent six days catching up on sleep, building up my strength with three meals a day, and taking time to clear my mind and slow things down.
At this time, the doctors were all in agreement that I was able to be discharged. When I got home, my focus was getting my life back on track and putting everything I had into my career and moving forward in a positive way.
To do this I knew the right thing to do was to remove some online posts I had made during my manic episode. But I went to log into my Instagram account and seemed to be blocked from accessing the site.
I contacted Instagram several times with an explanation of the circumstances, details of my mental health episode, and informing them that I deeply regretted and would like to remove the content I had posted during that time, and would continue as before using the platform to promote positive causes and interact with my fans.
Unfortunately, to this day I have not received a response from them or any indication of why my account has been removed. I was supposedly given a warning before my account was blocked, but I did not receive this; if I had I would have immediately deleted any offending material.
I do understand Instagram has to act if someone breaks the rules of their site, but to ban me from the platform without any discussion seems unfair and unnecessary.
Every day I am working hard to get my life back on track and I would like to use the site to promote the work I have been doing over the years for mental health.
I am proud of what I have achieved since my first breakdown. Later this year, people can see me in my first Hollywood role, starring alongside Megan Fox in Rogue. I also have a UK feature film called Break, featuring the late Rutger Hauer, coming out at the end of August.
I have been through some very dark and testing times in my life and my fan base has always been extremely important to me. I speak with fans regularly and try to use my own experiences to help them with theirs, whether relating to the acting industry or mental health. I’ve had a lot of support from fans who have stood by me throughout my career and my mental health episodes.
I will continue to speak up about mental health and do everything I can to support people and hopefully inspire others to see that bipolar is not a death sentence. It will only push me to work harder and continue to be professional in everything I do.
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I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for my recent rants on Instagram and Twitter, and want to say thank you to everyone who has taken time to try and understand mental health issues.
I’d also like to thank the incredible NHS doctors and nurses on the ward for everything they did for me, and for the amazing job they do each and every day.
After working so hard over the last six years in my work and moving on with my life, I’m devastated that the pressure from this year brought on my second bipolar episode.
But I now understand that this is a lifelong illness. In no way will I let it define me or my career.
Lockdown has been hard on everyone, and I am no exception.
Instagram told Sky News they disabled Adam Deacon’s account earlier this year for repeatedly breaking rules against bullying and harassment. They went on to say under current rules the action is permanent, but they are constantly reviewing policies to make sure they are fair and proportionate