‘X Factor’ Star James Arthur Revisits Childhood Trauma in New BBC Documentary

James Arthur at HITS Live Birmingham 2021Photo by Joe Maher/Getty Images for BAUER

In a soon-to-be streaming BBC documentary, X Factor winner James Arthur shares the compelling history of his mental illness. As he confronts his parents over their chilling decision to put him in foster care, Arthur profoundly unpacks the childhood trauma that haunts him until today.


BBC Features James Arthur in a Mental Health Documentary

Entitled James Arthur: Out of Our Minds, the X Factor alum attempts to explore his past experiences as a child. Subsequently, he moves back to Redcar, North Yorkshire, highlighting the moment when his parents decided to put him in foster care. According to Arthur, he feels it necessary to return to his hometown to tackle his mental health issues.

“I had to start by going back to my hometown to revisit my past, and the separation,” he said.

Arthur’s parents, Shirley and Neil, broke up when he was two years old. His mom was then remarried to Ronnie Rafferty who moved their family to Bahrain when Arthur was nine. Living an “amazing lifestyle” there in four years, his stepdad abruptly “disappeared,” leaving his mom alone with four kids.


Consequently, they went back to Redcar, and this is where Arthur’s world began to wobble. He didn’t spend much time at home and was wandering streets to escape. By the time he was 14, his parents admitted that he cannot live with them, thus sending him to foster care.

This agonizing instance led him to resent his parents as he went through adulthood. Leaving foster care at age 19, he found himself jobless, broke, and anxious. Completely helpless, he called his mom and asked for a fiver, which she agreed to do under the condition that he must audition to The X Factor.

His Anxiety Continues Even After Winning The X Factor

Arthur’s parents eventually scaled up their support while he was on the competition show. When he won The X Factor UK in 2012, his rise to stardom seemed like lightning. Within a decade, he has released four studio albums and trekked the road for tours multiple times. However, depression and anxiety were not easy rocks to destroy.


“I was taking antidepressants, smoking a lot of cannabis and drinking, partying. I fed up bad and I’m sorry for that, I was a fool,” he said.

His mental illness was opened to the public when he suddenly cancelled his European tour back in 2020. Apparently, Arthur was suffering from an overwhelming panic attack at the time.

James Arthur: Out of Our Minds intends to uncover the singer’s desperate lows behind his incredible highs. As he struggles to make peace with his mental health, this documentary follows his efforts to cope. This one-hour film will be available for streaming on November 13.

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