'Shameless' writer tells of constant thoughts of suicide

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As the writer of award-winning shows such as Shameless and Clocking off, Paul Abbott has been fêted as one of Britain's finest dramatists. Now he has revealed how his life is racked by daily thoughts of suicide, even to the extent of sizing up which bridges to jump from.

In a moving interview he talks about the bipolar disorder he has battled for much of his life, after first realising he had psychiatric problems as a teenager. His traumatic early years in Burnley, Lancashire, were scarred by his desertion by both parents and a "brutal" rape when he was 11.

"With bipolar, suicide is a constant presence in your life," he says. "It's not as if you actually feel suicidal, but you don't stop thinking about it. It crosses your mind every day. I was plagued by it for a long time. You look at a bridge and think, oh that's high enough, I could get on that."

Alongside prescribed drugs, the unconditional love for his children Tom and Annie, aged 14 and 12, helps him to cope with his thoughts, Abbott says.

"The love for my family and children is so powerful and so much greater than anything that could make me damage them in that way. They are my immunity," the Bafta-winner says in today's edition of Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.

Abbott was nine when his mother walked out on his father and her 10 children. Two years later his father did the same, leaving the children penniless and in the care of an elder sister, desperate to avoid any contact with authorities for fear of being put into care.

'Desert Island Discs' is on Radio 4 at 11.15am today