The father of the late singer Amy Winehouse has spoken out about his daughter’s struggles and his own mental health for Mental Health Awareness Week.
Mitch Winehouse, 70, said the UK-wide lockdown caused by the outbreak of COVID-19, had highlighted the importance of mental health.
“It has shown that anybody can be affected by mental health issues,” he said. “Most people are. It’s indiscriminate and can strike at any time.”
He said: “There has been more awareness of mental health and the problems people are facing over the last eight weeks compared to ten years ago.
“The last two months have exasperated people’s mental health issues – myself included.”
Mr Winehouse, whose wife Jane has been taking care of her mother, has been living alone since lockdown. The grandfather has stayed connected to family and friends remotely, but has found the distance “difficult”.
To cope, he has taken long walks around London and volunteered as a driver for communal charity Jewish Care, delivering food parcels to elderly people four times a week.
But he believes the Jewish community has further to go to recognise the importance of mental health. Mr Winehouse, who was born in Stoke Newington, said: “I remember what it was like with my parents. It was something we never really discussed.”
When Mr Winehouse was 16, his 43-year-old father died after being diagnosed with lung cancer. “I was told, ‘no tears. You have got to look after your mum, be strong’. You couldn’t get out your grief. It’s something I still struggle with.”
In 2011, Amy Winehouse was found dead in her north London flat after suffering alcohol poisoning. A Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter, the 27-year-old had battled alcohol and drug addiction as well as an eating disorder.
“Of course, it’s all linked,” he said. “A lot of people thought it was about being in the limelight and being a big singing star. Now, people have a completely different attitude and opinion of Amy. They know she’s a strong woman that had strong issues; mental health issues.”
Mr Winehouse, who recalled attending Southgate Reform Synagogue with Amy as a child, co-founded the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which works with disadvantaged young people.
Mr Winehouse, a jazz musician, is proud of the group’s use of music to support service users. He said: “It allows young people to express themselves through music. What better way is there?”