19/02/2015 16:50 GMT | Updated 20/02/2015 20:59 GMT

Florence Welch Says She Had 'A Nervous Breakdown', But What Exactly Does That Mean?

Simone Joyner via Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Florence Welch of Florence And The Machine performs live on stsge at 02 Arena on December 5, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)

Florence + The Machine singer Florence Welch has said she took some time out of the limelight after having “a bit of a nervous breakdown”.

“It was a decision to have a year off. [I had] a bit of a nervous breakdown. It was a bit of a crash landing in a sense," she told Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe.

"In the year off, I was still going out and going to events but something wasn't quite right, I was spiralling a bit. I wasn't making myself happy. I wasn't stable. It was a really vulnerable time."

We rarely hear a celebrity speak so candidly about their own mental health, and for that, Welch must be applauded.

But the usual silence surrounding mental health means many questions are often left unanswered.

So, what is a nervous breakdown and how would you know if you're having one?

"While a nervous breakdown is not a clinical diagnosis, it is a term that is widely used to refer to a state of psychological distress," Pablo Vandenabeele, clinical director for mental health at Bupa UK tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle.

The umbrella term may include the deterioration of conditions such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.


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Vandenabeele says the warning signs of a nervous breakdown will differ from person to person, depending on any underlying condition they may have.

"However, persistent changes in mood, confidence levels and ability to deal with stress may act as warning signs," he adds.

"Other ongoing symptoms may include irritability, tearfulness or changes in sleep patterns, appetite and worsening concentration levels."

Vandenabeele says if you think you're experiencing symptoms associated with nervous breakdowns, it's important to seek help from your GP.

But sadly, many people suffer in silence, rather than seek help.

Sam Challis, information manager at mental health charity Mind tells us social stigma is still a huge problem around the topic of mental health.

"We know that nine out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination and this can be even worse than the symptoms of the problem itself," he says.

"Because of this, people can find it hard to open up to family, friends and colleagues but having support from loved ones is really important."


Challis says there are many ways to start a conversation about mental health. If you're worried about a friend or family member, the best thing to do is sit down and have a chat.

"Explain that you are there to help and will support them in any way you can," he says.

"There are also lots of practical things you can do, such as looking up information or going along to a medical appointments but emotional support will be equally as valuable."

If you feel like you are struggling to cope yourself, Challis adds that seeking help from friends or family can really help.

"If you can’t find the right words, then look up some information and ask if you can talk about it together," he says.

"Or you could drop it into conversation – letting family and friends know how you feel as part of a general chat can also be a good introduction. When you’re asked how you feel or how things are going, be honest and let the conversation flow naturally from there."

The good news is that once you broach the subject of nervous breakdowns with friends and family, you may be pleasantly surprised by their reaction.

HuffPost UK blogger Louise Gillett has suffered from feelings or paranoia and anxiety in the past. She's previously said she suffered "a total mental breakdown" before being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

But true friends, she says, do not turn away when you open up about mental illness.

"Schizophrenia is still that word which shocks people and affects their notion of me. Although I live a very average, quiet life and have not been mentally unwell for many years, the label is a hard one to get away from.

"Even so, true friends have only ever been supportive. In a way it has helped me to sort the wheat from the chaff - anybody who thinks worse of me when they discover I once suffered emotional distress is not someone whose company and good opinion I really want to cultivate," she says.

Gillett adds that when celebrities such as Florence Welch "own up" to having had problems with mental health, it helps remove some of the stigma.

"They are role models and so it normalises mental illness or emotional distress," she says.

We have to agree. By opening up about her own experience, Welch has highlighted the fact that a mental health issue isn't something that should be suffered in silence.

And with celebrities from Stephen Fry to Zoella now talking openly about mental health, it seems like the current social stigma and misunderstanding may eventually be a thing of the past.

For now though, we still have some way to go.

Anyone who is unsure about where or how to seek help can call the Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393.

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