THE SOPRANOS star Lorraine Bracco is fronting an American TV campaign to raise awareness of mental illness after winning her own battle against clinical depression.

THE GOODFELLAS actress, who plays psychiatrist DR JENNIFER MELFI in the hit TV show, sought help for the crippling illness in 1997 after her failed love life and financial problems became too much to cope with.

Bracco, who appears in the commercials in association with pharmaceutical giant PFIZER, says, "If you break your leg, you have it fixed. If you have a toothache, you go to the dentist.

"When it comes to mental health, people think they can just get over it."

The 50-year-old fought depression throughout the 1990s when she was involved in a bitter custody case for her daughter STELLA with ex-husband Harvey Keitel, and she was declared bankrupt when her relationship with actor Edward James Olmos collapsed.

She continues, "I just had a lot of really big things that kept pounding me and I would let all these things rule my life instead of my dreams and wishes.

"I was doing everything. The laundry was done. The children had food. They were driven to school and extracurricular activities, but I was joyless in it. It just became a chore for me."

11/03/2005 17:28