Some celebrities like to be guarded and are hesitant to speak candidly – but, refreshingly, that is certainly not the case with Denise Welch.

The Tynemouth-born actress, 62, is a regular panellist on the ITV chat show, Loose Women, and until recently, she would often share her opinions on Twitter too.

But the social media site can be a “toxic” place, and she has received some “vile” abuse in the past, she confides.

Then, one day last month, she woke up to find she had been logged out of Twitter – and there’s been no way of getting her account back.

“After 10 days, I thought, ‘I feel so much better without it!’” reflects Welch, who is best known for playing Natalie Horrocks in Coronation Street.

Something Welch tweeted about previously – which memorably led to public clashes with Piers Morgan – were her views on the Covid-19 pandemic.

The mother-of-two – who first experienced post-natal depression following the birth of her eldest son, Matty (from the band The 1975), and has since battled episodes of severe depression – is vocal about the impact of the nationwide lockdowns on people’s health.

An ambassador for the charity Mind, she says that people have been reaching out to her a lot during the pandemic.

“Some of the emails have been heartbreaking, about how people’s mental health has suffered,” she continues.

“I’ve been talking to doctors; one of the hidden epidemics is the increase in liver disease and stuff with people who are drinking. [There’s been] the massive increase in clinical depression, and breakdowns, and attempted suicide – all of these things that I’ve been aware of. And that’s why I was very vocal about the other side of Covid, at the very beginning.

“Yes, we’ve had to protect people from the virus itself, but it’s the other virus, which is the mental health side of things, and the fact that cancers haven’t been treated... All I was trying to do was give a voice to the other things that weren’t necessarily directly Covid-related.”

Welch has been extremely busy with work throughout the last year; firstly, there was her book, The Unwelcome Visitor, being published last March. In January she joined the cast of Channel 4 soap, Hollyoaks, and now there’s her new documentary series launching on factual TV channel, Crime+Investigation, called Survivors With Denise Welch.

In each of the six episodes, we see the host speak to someone who has been forced to confront unimaginable horror – and yet has lived to tell the tale.

Cases featured in the six-part series include a vicious, unprovoked stabbing by a stranger and a diabolical acid attack, and there are also interviews with friends and family of the survivors, plus a criminal barrister’s expert commentary.

It’s a thought-provoking exploration of what it means to live with the trauma of enduring such horrific crimes, and the incredible effort and courage required to rebuild a life in the aftermath.

“I was talking to a producer a couple of years ago and said that, as a presenter, I didn’t have any desire to do a sort of Davina McCall-type floor show; I was interested in real people, I was interested in crime, and I was interested in survival. And so, we came up with this.”

Welch adds she was very keen to let the survivors know that “I wasn’t pretending to be some kind of faux, untrained journalist, that I was basically an actress, with a mental health background”.

“I think that my own mental health advocacy and my own sobriety [she gave up drinking alcohol in 2012] has made me into a person that is perhaps more empathetic and a very good listener.”

Instead of taking notes into the interviews, she allowed it to just flow as a natural conversation. “And if that meant sometimes that I imparted something about my life, that wasn’t me trying to go, ‘Oh, and this is also about me’,” she suggests.

“I did experience – many, many years ago – coercive control and emotional abuse, and although that isn’t me trying to say, ‘Mine was as bad as yours, it meant that I could hopefully show some empathy and just allegiance to, for example, Bethany [Marchant, a survivor of a three-hour domestic abuse ordeal at the hands of her boyfriend], when she was talking about it.”

Welch hasn’t had an episode of her own depression since September 2019, and while she did have to consider whether hosting such an intense series would be triggering for her, she says she was able to approach it rationally.

Going home to her artist husband Lincoln – a fellow “aficionado of the true crime genre” – and talking the days’ filming through with him was helpful.

Next year, she hopes to take some time off to do some travelling as a couple.

“I love my relationship with my husband, so I just want to be with Lincoln,” gushes the star, who was previously married to actor Tim Healey (the father of her two sons).

“I want to do things that mean something to me or work in environments where the people are lovely.

“No matter how good the job might be, if it entailed working with ego, or arrogance, or anything like that, I can’t be bothered.”

  • The first episode of Survivors With Denise Welch premieres on Crime+Investigation on Monday April 19. Episodes will be available for 30 days on catch up.