Joe Gilgun is not a role model for mental health.
That’s according to the actor himself, who spoke honestly on Tuesday following a VIP screening of new comedy series Brassic – a Sky One Original co-written by and starring Joe, based on his life growing up in Chorley and his personal struggles with bipolar.
The show follows Vinnie, played by Joe, a lad from the fictional town of Hawley as he wheels and deals his way through life while coping with bipolar.
“I'm not a role model. I haven’t got the answers,” explains the 35-year-old.
“But when people get in touch about their mental health I always try to respond. The truth is I’m raising awareness but also telling my story.
“I think we’re also gonna get people saying ‘well that’s not my story’ – and that’s alright. Everyone is very different and this is the problem with mental health.
“You’re all made to sign a multiple choice questionnaire and depending on the score you tally at the end of it depends on how much medicine you’re about to get from the GP.
“The nature of bipolar is one minute you’re up in the f****** air and the next minute you’re down.
“My score one day will be completely different to the day after. I ask you how f***** accurate is that system? Everyone is very, very individual.”
Bipolar was always at the forefront of the conversation when it came to making the show, explained Joe.
He says: “It’s a character based on me. It’s a partly autobiographical show. Me and [friend] Dave Quayle always wanted that during the original creative process.”
Joe, of Coronation Street and This is England fame, spoke about how the two of them settled down at a place in Pall Mall, Chorley, to get ideas together following Joe’s filming of 2014’s LGBT comedy-drama Pride.
“My bipolar was suffering terribly at this time. I remember we had this book and Dave read a little bit about what bipolar was because I didn’t know what it was,” says Joe.
“It gave me a lot of understanding for it because I can’t read up on that s***.
“It broke down what was wrong with me and of course I recognised all these symptoms. I understand that it makes me a bit vulnerable, being as honest as I have been.
“[In Brassic] we expose all the bipolar stuff even down to the medicine. It’s accurate.
“Vinnie’s symptoms are my symptoms. I lose my s***.
“The thing is with depression, it’s not always sadness; there’s a lot of frustration involved. It can make you very angry and hard to be around.
“And that’s another aspect I wanted to show. It’s not always highs and lows – it’s f****** highs and f****** lows. And that’s the reality of that condition.
“I wanted to be as f****** open and honest as I could be about that. That is me.”
Joe is the first to admit he is still struggling, mentioning the weekly therapy he has to cope with the condition – something he says he is “very lucky” to be able to do as “there aren’t enough therapists”.
He says: “We have this constant conservation about the love I have for myself and there’s very, very little there.
“Even the way I came in today and spoke to you. I’m on a manic high, I’ve no control over it. I said to Dave hours ago that I can’t calm down.”
For Joe, advice on the first step to take if you’re concerned about your mental health is clear.
“I would just say to anyone who is starting to realise they have mental health issues – I would always try to encourage to have some talking therapy before you jump on any drugs,” says Joe.
“I’m on a lot of medication for my bipolar and it’s difficult, it does affect my life.
“I have my coping strategies and that’s also depicted in the show.
“I’ve tried to be as honest as I possibly can with who I am and partly the reason is I just want acceptance for the guy that I am.
“I don’t want to have to keep putting on this bloody facade for everyone that it’s all sunshine and light all the time.
"Because it just isn’t and I don’t think it’s a fair representation of people.
"We all have our s***.”
Brassic airs on Sky One on Thursday, August 22 at 10pm, with all episodes available on Sky Box Sets and Now TV