Will Poulter says acting offered ‘escape’ from mental health issues

Will Poulter Says Acting Offered ‘Escape’ From Mental Health Issues
Will Poulter
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By Hannah Roberts and Prudence Wade, PA

Will Poulter has suggested his acting career meant he didn’t address his mental health “as early as I might have”.

The 30-year-old British star has been acting since he was a child, first appearing in the 2007 film Son Of Rambow.


“I think for me, performance offered me something of an escape,” Poulter told the PA news agency.

“For a while, maybe I wasn’t addressing some of my mental health issues as early as I might have, because I was losing myself in my work a little bit, and that’s probably quite relatable to a lot of people, whether they’re actors or not.

Will Poulter
Will Poulter shows off his moustache for Movember (Rankin Studios/PA)


“So it’s been a kind of blessing and a curse in that respect, if I’m being completely honest, but I’m obviously very, very grateful to have found something that ultimately I’m very passionate about and I love doing, so it nets out as being a positive and I’m grateful for it.”

Poulter, who has been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, depression and OCD, has teamed up with Movember for its 20th anniversary to raise funds and awareness of testicular cancer, prostate cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.

He said his experiences with mental health have “textured my experience in a number of different ways”, and highlighted the importance of opening up.

“I’ve found, certainly, that having the opportunity to talk in a kind of no-holds-barred fashion, and not to feel the kind of brunt of the stigma, has been really beneficial,” the Maze Runner star said.


“I think, to a large extent, a problem shared is a problem halved… By talking to people more openly about the subject of mental health, you quickly come into contact with the idea that it’s often people that you wouldn’t necessarily assume are suffering from something.

“Everyone has a mental health to consider, everyone’s dealing with something to some extent.”



He said he’s been “liberated to talk about my mental health relatively freely”, but accepted that isn’t necessarily the case for everyone.

“Certainly on a societal level, there’s still quite an asphyxiating stigma around mental health. I think what Movember have long done is helped deconstruct that stigma and create a more hospitable environment for people to be able to talk about mental health.”

He suggested that mental health is “especially stigmatised” in the male community.


According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), around three-quarters (74%) of the suicides registered in England and Wales in 2021 were men. It’s the leading cause of death in men aged 20-34.

Movember also said it’s believed one in five (20%) of men in the UK aged between 16-29 experienced moderate to severe depressive symptoms in 2023.

Will Poulter
This is the second year Poulter has teamed up with Movember (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

The charity took on mental health and suicide prevention as a cause area in 2006, focusing on prevention, early intervention and health promotion focusing around men.

Poulter, who is teaming up with Movember for the second year in a row, said he’s “very fortunate to have a lot of people in my life, both men and women, who contribute to that conversation [around mental health] very openly”, but accepted there’s still a way to go.

“It often requires a lot of courage on behalf of the person who’s dealing with a mental health issue to speak up. What I think we have to work towards is a destigmatised society, so it isn’t such a courageous thing to do.”

He continued: “When you break it down, ultimately we’re talking about an organ, or talking about taking care of your body. When you think about it like that, to think there’s so much stigmatisation around talking about taking care of the most vital organ in your body, it seems kind of bizarre – but that is the situation we find ourselves in.”

Poulter said he always tries to “think about it in those terms”, and talk about it like that with “people in my own household and those nearest and dearest to me”.

He added: “It’s always fascinated me that physical health, largely speaking, doesn’t have the same stigma surrounding it. People talk about physical health more freely than they do mental health.”

Movember is an annual event where people grow moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of a variety of men’s issues, and 2023 marks 20 years since the charity was founded in a pub in Melbourne, Australia, by two friends.

Portrait photographer Rankin has teamed up with Movember to photograph people including Poulter, ex-Arsenal footballer Jermaine Pennant, TV presenters Laura Whitmore and Iain Stirling, and members of boyband Busted.

Poulter is an ambassador of Movember, united to take on mental health, suicide, prostate and testicular cancers. See Movember.com.

For mental health support, contact the Samaritans on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

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