Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

It made me more complete: David Harewood reflects on psychotic breakdown

David Harewood has spoken candidly about his psychotic breakdown for Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs (Ian West/PA)
David Harewood has spoken candidly about his psychotic breakdown for Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs (Ian West/PA)

English actor and presenter David Harewood has said his experience of a psychotic breakdown ultimately “made me more complete”.

Harewood, 56, found widespread fame playing CIA director David Estes in the US drama series Homeland.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Harewood reflected on enduring a psychotic breakdown at the age of 23 and subsequently being sectioned twice after leaving drama school.

He told presenter Lauren Laverne: “I started to sort of have these moments of blackouts and suddenly wake up at three o’clock in the morning and I’d be outside Euston station in the middle of the night.

“And I’d go, ‘what on Earth am I doing here? I better go home’, and I’d start walking home and then black out, and I’d wake up in Camden at four o’clock in the afternoon.

“I was just in and out of reality. It was bizarre and scary and ethereal.”

In 2019, Harewood created a BBC documentary, Psychosis and Me, in which he explored psychosis, meeting people living with the mental illness and learning about the current available treatments.

Explaining how his experience ultimately made him the person he is today, Harewood said: “It has made me stronger and more rounded, and more understanding, and made me more complete.

“I think I’m very lucky that I’m one of the 15% of people who have a psychotic breakdown who don’t need further medication.

“Most people who suffer breakdowns will remain on some form of medication. But I’ve never experienced anything again.”

While discussing the potential causes of his breakdown, Harewood spoke candidly about experiencing racism as a child and the subsequent intrusive feelings that followed him into adulthood.

“It really suddenly hit me, that because I was black, he didn’t think I belonged here,” he told Laverne about a specific experience with an elderly man.

“I just always remember that being really discombobulating, and really confusing.

“As a young kid I just didn’t understand it, I thought ‘I’m from England’. I just buried everything, buried discomfort, buried the pain and just thought to sort of get on with my life and just assimilate.”

While performing in a theatre production after leaving drama school, Harewood revealed he received further abuse after a poor review in a black newspaper.

He said: “I read one, that was in The Voice newspaper, which is a black newspaper, really having a go at me saying how dare I play this role.

BBC2’s new season line-up
Harewood has spoken candidly about the psychotic breakdown he experienced as a young adult (Hannah McKay/PA)

“That started to un-nerve me in this sense that I was being rejected.

“By the white spaces, rejected by the black space as well. It just started becoming too much.”

Despite the struggles he experienced, Harwood spoke positively about his career and the experience he has when he steps on stage.

He said: “You have surety on stage, you have certainty. We all rehearse the moves and everyone knows their lines, everyone’s wearing great costumes, everything’s set.

“And that’s not like life, is it? No-one knows their lines in real life. So, onstage I sort of grow.

“You give me a character and I pour myself into that character, and it gives me a sense of freedom.”

During the conversation, Walsh chose eight tracks to take with him to the Desert Island, including UB40’s One in Ten, D’Angelo’s Cruising and Ain’t Nobody by Chaka Khan and Rufus.

Harewood also chose to take a fold-out light-up dance floor as his luxury item.

– The full interview with David Harewood on Desert Island Discs will air on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds on Sunday at 11am.

Already a subscriber? Sign in