How Atomic Kitten girls suffered addiction, breakdowns and depression after finding fame and were 'on prozac at 17'

THEY were living the pop star dream before they’d even left school – with a hectic recording schedule, flats in London and trips in limousines.

But teenage fame sparked decades of mental health issues for Atomic Kitten – with Natasha Hamilton once admitting she was on prozac at the age of 17.

This week, the mum-of-four admitted she had a “full mental breakdown” after her divorce from businessman Riad Erraji in 2013 and the birth of her youngest daughter Ella a year later.

"I was married for seven years, got divorced, lost the plot a little bit, went through some mental health ups and downs, and then I had my daughter in 2014," Natasha said on the Mindkite Podcast.

"When I had my little girl I had a full breakdown and I was under the care of a mental health team, the care of a psychiatrist.”

Natasha is not alone in battling mental illness, with all three of her bandmates facing their own struggles over the years – including drug addiction, postnatal depression and eating disorders.

And Kerry Katona recently revealed that a shambolic appearance on This Morning in 2008, when she slurred her words, was down to bipolar medication.

Here’s how the Atomic Kitten girls bravely battled their demons to become Whole Again.


Prozac at 17 and psychiatric care

The youngest of the band, Natasha Hamilton was just 16 when she moved from Liverpool to London to replace original member Heidi Range – who quit before the first single was released, in 1999.

But she says the tough schedule pushed her to the edge very quickly.

"It was tough, exciting, overwhelming,” she told podcaster Simon Gross.

“We were pushed to the full extreme through hectic schedules, working long hours, not enough sleep, grabbing food when we could, pulled from pillar to post.

“There was no aftercare and it affected my mental health. At the age of 17, I was on Prozac. I was overwhelmed and exhausted."


The pressure increased after the 2001 single, Whole Again, became a huge smash.

At 19, at the height of her fame, Natasha fell pregnant with her first child, Josh, with nightclub owner Fran Cosgrove.

“I was a kid and I didn’t understand what was going on. And neither did the girls,” she said.

It took nine months for Natasha to be diagnosed with postnatal depression.

“I had this amazing career, we had number one albums and sell-out tours, but deep down inside I was really unhappy, struggling with my emotions and felt like I had to hide them.

“I did suffer in silence and it made it a lot worse. "

Natasha went on to have second son Harry with dancer Gavin Hatcher, in 2004, before marrying businessman Riad Erraji and welcoming third son Alfie, now 10.


The marriage ended in divorce in 2013 and it was after the birth of her daughter, Ella, with Five's Ritchie Neville, that she suffered a full breakdown.

After receiving treatment, Natasha said she got herself back on track when she realised she could stop “chasing fame”.

"I’ve had to give myself a little slap and go, 'Hang on a minute, get some balls, own your sh**, get on with it!.”

Atomic Kitten briefly reformed in 2012 and have toured together on several occasions since.

Natasha, now 38, has since trained as a beauty therapist and is also a qualified counsellor and says that stepping away from the limelight has helped her overcome her issues and find the real her.

"I’m not just Natasha from Atomic Kitten, I’m a woman who wants other things," she says.


Drug addiction and anxiety

But Natasha isn't alone in her struggles.

Kerry Katona famously quit Atomic Kitten shortly before the single Whole Again catapulted them to stardom.

But the star was already battling alcohol and drug addiction when she joined the band, at the age of 18.

Introduced to cocaine by her mum, at 14, she later revealed she was taking speed and cocaine on a regular basis by 16.

"I was a really good kid but when I became an adult it just kind of went downhill from there," she has said.

After leaving the band, Kerry settled down with Brian McFadden and kicked the drug habit after moving to Ireland and having her two oldest children – Molly, 19, and Lily-Sue, 18.

But after splitting with the Westlife star in 2004, after two years, she spent six weeks in rehab battling addiction and depression and was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder.


In 2005, after winning I’m A Celebrity, Kerry fell off the wagon again.

She said: "I wanted to prove I’d not changed. I’m still 'our Kez', I’m up for a good time. So I’m buying all my friends coke and trying to get people to love me."

Kerryhas claimed she only married second husband Mark Croft – dad to her kids Heidi, 13, and Max, 12 – because he was a her mum's drug dealer and she "thought she was going to get the drugs for free."

The year of their marriage, 2007, also saw Kerry hospitalised with bipolar disorder, after a violent robbery at her home, which saw her and daughter Heidi held hostage, triggered an episode.

Mark, who has always denied supplying the star with drugs, was later convicted of running a cannabis farm in his loft, but escaped jail.


They split in 2009, after two years of marriage, and Kerry went on to marry fellow addict George Kay, in 2014.

The couple – who shared daughter Dylan, now seven – split a year later and he tragically died of a drug overdose in 2019.

Shortly before his death, Kerry issued a warning about cocaine, calling it “toxic" and "manipulating".

"After taking drugs I used to have fits. My eyes would roll back and I’d be frothing at the mouth," she told the Sun

“I could have died, I could have choked on my own tongue, my own saliva."

At 40 Kerry is clean, and engaged to Ryan Mahoney, 32. She is running her own fashion business and recently launched a new dating app with Ryan, saying she had found her "happily ever after" and wanted others to do the same.

She is still open about her mental health issues and recently revealed she was suffering anxiety, exacerbated by lockdown.

“I've actually gone back on medication for it,” she says. “I had intrusive thoughts about dying – and I even had thoughts about my children dying.”


Depression and eating disorder after stepbrother’s death

At the height of their fame, the longest-serving Kitten, Liz McClarnon was suffering paranoia and panic attacks, convinced she would be killed on stage.

"It was hard to get me on stage because I thought someone in the crowd was going to shoot me," Liz later told the Mirror. "I was totally paranoid."

Her fragile mental state was the result of several tragedies, including the death of her 18-year-old step-brother Mark Cook, killed in a car crash in 2002.

She sank into a deep depression and developed an eating disorder, seeing her weight plummet from nine stone to seven.

"I was really down because I'd lost three people who were close to me in a short space of time – my grandfather, then Mark and then my uncle," she says.

“I was always away. I never got back in time to say goodbye.”


"I went through a really bad time when I'd have panic attacks. I would have bad chest pains and feel like I was going to die. I couldn't get out of bed and I couldn't eat anything.

"Depression took my appetite away and I was always stressed. Even looking at food at that time made me feel sick."

Eventually, the singer turned to hypnotherapy to deal with her grief as well as taking antidepressants.

"It worked after just one session and I haven't looked back since,” she told Closer at the time.

“I began eating properly and felt my strength returning."

Liz – who has dated Lee Ryan and Frank Lampard in the past – also developed a lasting phobia of flying, which meant she was unable to join Natasha and Kerry on the reunion tour in Australia, in 2016.

During a therapy session with TV psychologists, the Speakmans, he was told the fear of flying was triggered by memories of homesickness and lack of control when she was a young star.

“That made sense as I have always been anxious. When I was in Atomic Kitten I suffered from depression and was put on ­antidepressants for a while,” she says.

“When I met the Speakmans, we established that not only did I have a fear of flying, but also a fear of death, losing control and claustrophobia.”

Liz, 40, is now an ambassador for Age UK and an avid supporter of mental health charities, recently posting a moving video urging fans to reach out if they have issues and telling them: "You don’t always have to be “the strong one.”


‘Traumatic’ childhood and tragic death of both parents

When 23-year-old Jenny Frost was parachuted in to replace Kerry, in 2001, she was already battling depression “on and off”.

In a 2018 blog, she revealed she started seeing her first therapist at the age of 20.

But the death of her 60-year-old mum Rita from cancer, in 2010, pulled the rug from under her.

“Depression has always been lurking in the background,” she wrote. “But when I lost my Mum, it dropped a gear and kicked me hard.”

Grief also contributed to the break up of her eight year engagement to DJ Dominic Thrupp, the father of her son, Caspar, who was two at the time.


“I don't think anything can ever prepare you for the loss of a parent," she said.

“It completely knocked me for six because despite the fact in the past we'd clashed as mothers and daughters can, since I'd had Caspar we'd become so close.”

Jenny went on to wed Vicente Juan Spiteri, the owner of a scuba diving school, in 2011, and moved to Ibiza.

But the birth of twin girls, Blake and Nico, two years later led to pre and post-partum depression, compounded by ongoing grief.

“Without really coming out of that darkness, pre and post natal depression took my feet right from under me.

"I’m feeling really good at the moment, positive and healthy but the dark days still catch me unawares.

“On those “dark days” I pretend everything’s OK but once the kids are in bed, I can struggle to even talk or move. It sucks.”

In 2017, Jenny suffered another heartbreak when her dad died of Cancer.

She revealed the pair had only just made up after a nine month feud.

“I've had possibly the worst 10 days of my life, although I was exactly where I was meant to be….right next to my Dad.”

Jenny, who built a career as a TV presenter after the band split, says her traumatic childhood was the key to her depression.

“I’m textbook. It’s not rocket science to work out why I am the way I am,” she wrote.

"Traumatic childhood with addiction in the family, saw things children shouldn’t see.


“But knowing this doesn’t stop the darkness creeping up on me and slapping me across the chops in moments that should be happy.

“So I’m on a mission to sort myself out.”

Now 43, Jenny runs a beach bar in Ibiza with her husband and says she has found ways to deal with her struggles, including ongoing therapy, frequent exercise and spending more time with her children.

Are you struggling with mental health problems?

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

  • CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
  • Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
  • Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
  • Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
  • Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123

 

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