Charlotte Church Searches The Brain For Answers To Depression In BBC Doc

By David Konow 01/30/18

In a new BBC special, the singer partners with doctors and scientists to gain a better understanding of mental health issues. 

Charlotte Church

Welsh singer Charlotte Church released her first album in 1998 at the tender age of 12. The aptly titled Voice of an Angel made Church the youngest artist to have a number one classical album.

She’s since enjoyed a successful career as a vocalist and TV personality, and now Church is searching for answers to depression by studying the brain in a new BBC Special. It’s a subject that Church says is “close to my heart,” because of her mother Maria’s lifelong struggles with her mental health.

In Charlotte Church: Inside My Brain, the singer met with Dr. Chantal Tax who invented a new way of brain imaging at Cardiff University. He told the BBC that it’s a “road map” to how the mind is wired, and adds, “It’s like an image of the wiring of the brain. With this technique we can finally look into a living brain. It’s really important to study the wiring and more specifically to study if that wiring is still intact, if there is still information flowing through there.”

Maria says of her mental health struggles, “I used to call it manic depression or being a loony. It’s now called bipolar... I just got that dark and down I couldn’t see it for myself. I'm a great believer in trying to help yourself so for many years I didn't, deliberately, take anything.”

Maria has suffered from bipolar disorder for 30 years, and as her daughter told The Daily Mail, “It’s been difficult watching mum suffer.” Because of her depression, Maria drank heavily, practiced self-harm, and at one point attempted suicide.

Charlotte adds that in her mother’s dark times, “I felt quite powerless and unsure how best to help her. The one thing I could do was try to understand, but understanding mental health means understanding the human brain.”

Inside My Brain also takes a look at new medicines that are being developed to help combat severe cases of depression.

Dr. John Atack, who is working on these new meds at Cardiff University, says, “We lack a basic understanding of what’s going on in the brains of people with depression. We think there is a reduction in their levels of serotonin so SSRIs [serotonin reuptake inhibitors] then restore that serotonin level to normal. But what causes that, what part of the brain is involved? Once we can understand the mechanism, we can start to think about how we can have potentially cures to depression.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.