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Inside Sarah Lancashire's early life and secret health battle

The actress plays Catherine Cawood 

sarah lancashire smiling
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
Updated: 9 May 2024
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Sarah Lancashire is known and loved for her portrayal of the formidable Catherine Cawood in BBC One's gripping drama series, Happy Valley

The actress has been on our screens for over three decades and while she is a familiar face to many, how much do you know about her personal life? Find out about her teenage years and her mental health battle here…

Sarah Lancashire visibly moved as she wins acting award for Happy Valley at NTAs

Sarah was born in Oldham, Lancashire to television scriptwriter Geoffrey, who wrote for Coronation Street, and his personal assistant Hilda. After winning a place at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Sarah realised her passion for acting and went on to pursue the career, appearing initially in plays before going on to land TV roles. 

At the age of 18, Sarah was diagnosed with clinical depression. Opening up about her health, the 59-year-old said that her early twenties were "a write-off" due to her "absolutely debilitating" mental state. 

Sarah Lancashire at the National Television Awards in 2000© Getty
Sarah suffered from depression in her early twenties

Sarah rose to fame for playing beloved barmaid Raquel Wolstenhulme in ITV's Coronation Street, but while her career may have been on the rise, her mental health was at an all-time low. 

Describing her breakdown as a "time bomb waiting to go off," she recalled the tough period in a previous interview. "Every day I was hysterical at the thought of getting out of bed, but I made myself.

"My family knew, but I certainly didn't tell anybody at the studios, and I didn’t take any time off," she said. "I was terrified of being judged and misunderstood. I just battled along. 

Happy Valley ended with its third season© Matt Squire
Sarah plays Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley

"It was the worst thing I could have done. Being in the public eye makes you frightened to talk openly about things – which is precisely why you should. You can really make a difference and open up subjects that are taboo."

Sarah also revealed that she came off of anti-depressants in 2001, saying: "I haven't taken it since. I know there will come a time when I'll have to, but for now it's OK."

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