Lucy Spraggan's latest song, "Dear You", is a moving look at the issues of mental health problems and suicide that affect so many of us. Lucy spoke with Time to Change about her own experiences with mental illness, and the vital support she found in friends and family.
- Tell us a little bit about your experiences?
My mental health has been pretty up and down over the years and I still have quite bad anxiety and paranoia. At my lowest, I hit my absolute rock bottom and thought a lot about taking my own life. At that time I was convinced that keeping it to myself was the only thing that would help, when in reality, it was doing the opposite. With Dear You, I wanted to write a song that encouraged people to speak up and reach out because if you don't it can be fatal.
- Who was the first person you spoke to?
At first I didn’t feel I could talk to anyone. Depression has a way of making you feel completely alone. Depression makes it so that no matter what anyone says, you can hear it but you can't understand it. It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't know what it feels like.
As soon as I realised what was happening I went to see a doctor and was prescribed medication. I was so closed off by that point that it didn’t occur to me to supplement the medication with a course of therapy, to try and get to the root causes of my anxiety, maybe even find a coping strategy.
Eventually I spoke to close friends and family but with depression it can be hard to articulate exactly what the problem is.
- How did you find that conversation? Did the person listen/put you at ease/make you feel worse?
I genuinely found talking to close friends and family helped so much. Talking about your problems is so therapeutic when people listen to you. The whole message of ‘Dear You’ is that people need to reach out to each other, and maybe if you tell one person how you feel, they might say they’re also feeling the same. Of course it depends who you speak to and how they respond, some people just don’t understand what depression is therefore don’t offer much help.
- What are some of the less helpful ways that people have responded to your mental health, and what impact did that have?
People have very different ideas of what depression is. It's funny how many people say things like "well, you seemed alright yesterday!" or "just get over it" without even knowing what they've said. To hear those things on a bad day can be fatal.
- What you would say to someone who knows a friend/relative/work colleague that’s going through a difficult time but is unsure of how to be there for them?
I wrote this song 'Dear You' by using some of the dark parts of my life. I wanted to try and make talking about suicide and the prevention of it become the norm.
I wanted to remind people that when you feel your worst and when you feel like you can't go on, there will be someone feeling very much the same who won't be very far away. Try your very best to reach out to them, even if it pulls you apart.
At rock bottom they say there's only one way – up – but that isn't true. We all know the other way.
Instead of offering those positive aphorisms or encouraging someone to feel better, ask them if they are OK. Say, "How do you feel right now?" and take it from there.
We've got to stick together to make it better.