James Arthur opens up about mental health battle in ‘Out of Our Minds’ documentary

Singer James Arthur

Singer-songwriter James Arthur hopes to encourage more people to talk about their mental health after opening up about his own in a recently aired documentary, ‘Out of Our Minds’.

The BBC documentary explores Arthur’s decades long mental health battle, which has seen him struggle with anxiety, depression and severe panic attacks, one of which was so debilitating, it led to him having to cancel his 2020 European tour.

While he had tried antidepressants, therapy, and exercise to help, he felt he needed to revisit his hometown of Redcar to reconnect with his past and delve further in the root cause of his poor mental health, which he believes was partly triggered by being placed in foster care by his parents as a teenager.

After a split when James was just two, his mother Shirley remarried, and moved the family to Bahrain to live with his stepfather, but after returning to England, James’s Stepfather reportedly disappeared, leaving her his mother to look after the children alone.

The recording artist says he began spending less time at home and ended up wandering the streets before his parents were called to an emergency meeting with social services, where they admitted that they couldn’t cope, and James was sent to live with a foster family for two years.

Arthur said “I decided that to tackle my mental health issues, I had to start by going back to my hometown to revisit my past and the separation from my parents. I watched both my parents decide to say, ‘He can’t live with us.’ I was a kid and actually I just needed somebody to put an arm around me. I’ll never forget that day. I remember that drive to the foster carer and how scary it was. I used to cry at night — it felt like the worst situation I could be in. I hadn’t even done anything really. I’d just been a little bit disruptive at school.”

Arthur, who rose to stardom after winning the X Factor in 2012, revealed that he even considered taking his own life during a decade of high and lows exacerbated by overnight success.

After winning the ITV talent contest, James’ debut single Impossible went straight to number one and became the fastest-selling winner’s track in the show’s history.

In the documentary, Arthur meets with his best friend, Jamie, local GP Alex Jones and members of Redcar CF football team, which is running its own campaign to get members talking about mental health. Redcar CF hopes to make football clubs a safe space for men to talk with its “no substitute for mental health” campaign.

James said: “I wanted to make this documentary to highlight how isolating the battle with mental health can be, but also that it doesn’t have to be. It was incredible speaking to the lads from Redcar CF and hearing about the positive impact community support can have on our mental health. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and I just hope it encourages everyone to talk more openly about their mental health and look out for each other as it can and will save lives”

Chairman of Redcar Jonathan McNaughton hopes that the documentary will help spread the club’s message of speaking up.

He said: “It’s just to get guys to speak more openly. If you’re from our area you go a couple of weeks and it’s ‘oh my God, I can’t believe it’ and you see someone on social media saying bye to someone. People say ‘why didn’t they just speak up? ‘They’re not speaking to people or they’re not just saying ‘I need help’ which is the message we put across to our lads. I always tell the lads to ask twice. Ask someone if they’re ok, they’ll say ‘yeah’. If you ask them again you say, ‘are you sure you’re, ok?’, you’re opening up the conversation a bit more. That’s it really…it’s just making sure these football teams are safe spaces and no-one is judged.”

The Northeast recorded the highest rate of suicides in the England last year according to figures from the ONS. The region recorded the highest rates in men, and women, and overall, per 100,000 in 2021.

Watch the trailer below:

‘Out of Our Minds’ is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now.

If you are struggling to cope, you can call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI) or contact other sources of support, such as:


CALM- Campaign Against Living Miserably


SOS- Silence of Suicide

For more information on mental health awareness, visit our blog.