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Bafta winner Joanna Scanlan recalls suicide attempt and struggle with alcoholism

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Bafta winner Joanna Scanlan recalls suicide attempt and struggle with alcoholism

Joanna Scanlan battled demons before finding massive success as an actress

The 60-year-old, perhaps best-known for her role as Terri Coverly in The Thick Of It, recently took home the Bafta for best actress for her performance in the drama After Love.

But despite a stunning career, Joanna struggled in her younger years after being sent to boarding school aged six and has described alcoholism playing a ‘big part’.

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In an interview with the Telegraph, she said the emotional damage was ‘absolutely huge’ and she ‘totally shut down’ while at school.

Joanna was expelled age 13 for her ‘extremely’ bad behaviour and was moved to a new boarding school, but a year later was ‘feeling suicidal.’

The then-14-year-old attempted suicide while at school, admitting: ‘When I hit my teens, that darkness came into my world in a way that was really unfathomable.

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‘It was so normal to have to manage really huge, dark emotions.’

Bafta winner Joanna Scanlan recalls suicide attempt and struggle with alcoholism

The star recently beat out the likes of Lady Gaga to win best actress at the 2022 Bafta awards

She admitted alcohol had been a significant feature of her childhood, recalling how she would keep a bottle of Clinique toner filled with gin.

‘Alcoholism was a big part of our family life,’ she claimed.

‘I was desperate to be allowed to make choices about my own life and having a drink was a huge part of that, as was smoking.’

‘I was desperate to be allowed to make choices about my own life and having a drink was a huge part of that, as was smoking.’

Joanna went on to study at the University of Cambridge but spent a large amount of time drinking in her room, which she described as a ‘consequence of the trauma of encountering men.’

At the same time, she threw herself into her studies and graduated university, but described drinking at home ‘hopelessly lying in bed, not able to do anything.’

Bafta winner Joanna Scanlan recalls suicide attempt and struggle with alcoholism

The Thick of It actress Joanna has also starred alongside the likes of Ralph Phiennes in The Invisible Woman

At the age of 29, she said, she suffered a ‘massive collapse’ where she ‘went to see my parents, went straight to bed, started crying and that went on day after day.

‘Floods of tears. This feeling of a headache, sore throat, aching muscles.’

Joanna was brought to the doctor where she was diagnosed with ‘chronic fatigue syndrome,’ and at the age of 29 quit drinking and smoking, admitting now that she ‘called [herself] an alcoholic at times’

Bafta winner Joanna Scanlan recalls suicide attempt and struggle with alcoholism

Joanna won multiple awards for her tole in After Love, including best actress at the British Independent Film Awards

‘In certain situations I have said I am an alcoholic, without having gone through a lot of what many of my friends have gone through and that is simply because I was 29, rather than 39.

‘If I’d carried on, it would have got worse and worse,’ she added.

She recalled being told by a doctor that if she didn’t make changes in her life and begin acting again she would be ‘ill for the rest of your life’ – advice which, Joanna says, ‘went like an arrow into my heart.’

Bafta winner Joanna Scanlan recalls suicide attempt and struggle with alcoholism

The actress was visibly emotional when she picked up her Bafta in March of this year

Joanna, who married her accountant husband Neil in 2009, beat out the likes of Lady Gaga, Alana Haim and Tessa Thomson to clinch the coveted best actress gong earlier this year.

She was lauded for her powerful performance as a grieving widow in Aleem Khan’s After Love, and admitted to Metro.co.uk and other press at the time that she ‘never imagined’ she would claim the Bafta award.


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