Q. Tell us about the first time you talked about your mental health.
I was a high achieving single parent, working and lecturing internationally. I thought I was physically ill: I went to the doctor and told him that I couldn’t get out of bed, I just wanted to sleep all the time. I hadn’t considered that I might have depression – I didn’t ever think that would apply to me. But as soon as the GP suggested it, it was like a light came on. I thought: “of course.”
Q. What would you like people to understand about mental health?
I’d like them to know that mental health is just like physical health – you can become mentally unwell, and you can become physically unwell. It’s normal for people to experience mental illness. It’s all around us: it could be your mother, your sister or your child going through something like that. Or it could be you. As a culture, if we don’t talk about mental health, we’re really negating a large part of ourselves.
Q. How have people responded when you tell them about it?
The responses have been varied. A lot of my colleagues at work didn’t think it was a big deal – they just accepted it as part of me, and asked me to tell them if I needed any help, but beyond that they moved on. One of my friends was really surprised that it would be something that affected me: she thought someone who’d achieved as much as me couldn’t have experienced depression. I had to explain to her that there isn’t a single type of person who goes through depression – it can affect anyone.
Q. What’s your relationship like with your son, Keya?
He’s really supportive, he does a lot to help. As a family, our discussion about it is quite open. We talk about mental health a lot: whether it’s about him, his friends or me. It’s been really important for me to treat that as a normal part of supporting someone to grow up and understand the world – it’s no different from talking about sex and drugs. I think it’s important to be open about mental health with your child, because they’re attacked by external images and stereotypes, so it’s important to give them an honest picture of what it’s like.
Q. What kind of things does Keya do to support you?
It’s very subtle – sometimes he’ll just ask me if I’m alright, or if I need some food. Sometimes he’ll just give me a kiss on the forehead. It’s very straightforward; it’s just a part of our lives. There are no grand gestures or statements – it’s just acceptance.
Do you want to find out more? Learn about the small things you can do to support someone you know, and add your own.