One of Radio 1’s most popular DJs, Scott Mills, 44, may come across as a confident and charismatic presenter, but he hasn’t always felt that way. From crippling anxiety to panic attacks, Scott’s had a lot to deal with, but facing his fears and challenging himself has been key in overcoming his demons
Scott Mills bounds into the cafe opposite BBC’s Radio 1 HQ carrying a two litre bottle of mineral water. Bag and coat down, he takes a guzzle. “I’ve got to drink all this and then another litre. It’s part of my new health regime!” he says, explaining that he’s a fortnight into a new “mad gym” programme.
“I feel amazing,” smiles Scott, twisting sideways on the sofa and locking eye contact. “I’m on a serious health kick – working out four times a week with a trainer plus extra cardio. Exercise really does help the mind.”
Mental health is a subject close to Scott’s heart and, as he chats for nearly an hour over coffee, he opens up abundantly about his history of anxiety, which began at the age of 13.
As one of Radio 1’s longest-serving and most popular presenters – 19 years and counting – Scott has the air of a kind, older brother who is gloriously well connected. A year ago, he welcomed Prince William and Kate Middleton on to his afternoon radio show to discuss their mental health charity, Heads Together. He’s interviewed everyone from Beyoncé to Bear Grylls, and three years ago, such is his own celebrity status, was asked to compete in Strictly Come Dancing.
How, then, did a teenager physically crippled by anxiety, find his professional home in the spotlight, and why does he believe that challenging himself is the ultimate therapy?
I just felt a bit down. I would feel very tired and had no motivation to do anything. I didn’t finish my GCSEs because I would get to the school gates and the anxiety was disabling. I’d think: “I can’t go in there.” It was the same when I started in radio aged 16 in Southampton. I’d be in the car for an hour with mum, who would be coaxing me to go in. I’d also wake up at night having panic attacks. But back then, I didn’t know what was happening.
I had a good childhood. Yes, my parents split when I was 11 years old, but I don’t blame that. I’m not sure whether there’s always an underlying reason for it, which suggests that it could be something in your brain. I was a little bit bullied at school because I was quite a big lad, and I remember feeling intimidated at times by certain people. I was also very shy. Who knows what triggered it?
Did you seek medical help as a teenager? I went to see a psychiatrist when I was 14 or 15, who said “it’s anxiety” and prescribed me tablets to regulate
Talking therapy. I’ve had it a few times over the years and I really want to believe in therapy and that it makes a difference, but I can’t say that I’ve ever had a real breakthrough, personally. I just don’t think I’ve found the right therapist for me.
Three years ago, just before Strictly Come Dancing, I went to see someone because I was terrified and it helped me to breathe and think more calmly. By doing Strictly, I wanted to prove something to my younger self. Imagine Scott at school, unable to get out of the car, dancing on television in front of 14 million people!
Some might wonder why someone with anxiety would crave a career in the spotlight… I’ve wanted to be on the radio since I was eight years old. I was so shy, and what fascinated me about radio was that I could talk to loads of people without having to meet them. I never even considered being famous or in the public eye.
Full Interview Out This Thursday 17th May in Happiful Magazine
To read more of Scott's exclusive chat with us, pick up the June issue in all major supermarkets this week.