I am 30, married and have a daughter who is almost two. Three weeks ago I stood up in a room full of friends & colleagues and tell them about an illness I had suffered from. I had been diagnosed four years earlier but most of them never knew.
This, in summary, is what I said:
‘In the last four years I have had three serious bouts of clinical depression.’
On Monday 23rd July a Channel 4 documentary that I have been involved in will be on the TV, so now the entire nation will know about this illness that I had been trying to hide from every one apart from those closest to me.
So why, if I had tried so hard to hide it from everyone, would I stand up in front of these very people and the whole nation, and tell them all about it?
I only knew about the symptoms of depression because somebody I worked with was brave enough to tell me about their experiences.
The answer is simple. Knowing that I was suffering from depression was the first but most crucial step to being able to do something about it. I only knew about the symptoms of depression because somebody I worked with was brave enough to tell me about their experiences.
Once I identified with these experiences it led to my diagnosis and the battle to beat the illness. Before then, I thought this was just what adult life was like and every one else just gets on with it. What’s wrong with me that I can’t? That’s the key point - there was something seriously wrong - this was not what adult life is supposed to be like!
this dramatic change in me ... compelled me to take action and make depression a subject that we are not afraid to talk about
I am happy to say that following a month off of work a year ago after my third and most serious bout of depression, I have recovered better than ever and am a stronger person for it. It is this dramatic change in me that has compelled me to take action and make depression a subject that we are not afraid to talk about either as a sufferer or a friend or family member of someone who does.
I could not have spoken this openly about it right after coming back to work. In fact, my first day back, when I parked my car, it was in the space closest to the exit because I didn’t think I would make it in for fear of people asking me why I had been off for so long. What would I say? I couldn’t have told anyone then that I had been off for a month with depression. How would they react? What would they think of me? It is only a year down the line and four years since I was diagnosed by my doctor, that I am confident enough to speak openly about it.
I got involved in this documentary by replying to an advert I saw through Time to Change. I wanted to do it because, compelled as I was to do something to help, I didn’t know where to start. This opportunity came up and I thought it was a great way to use my experiences to try and help other people.
I was surprised but happy to see a major broadcaster like Channel 4 tackle this serious issue
Initially I thought it would be for a smaller digital channel and I was surprised but happy to see a major broadcaster like Channel 4 tackle this serious issue. I hope a lot of people will learn from the whole week of programmes and will appreciate this subject that desperately needs to be de-mystified.
On the whole the experience of being involved with this documentary has been a positive one. After telling people of my own struggle with depression, others have talked to me about both their family members and even their own illness. It was a real help to me knowing that I was not the only one going through this and the more we talk about it the more I hope people who are suffering in silence - as I was - will be able to seek help.
I have been lucky enough to work for a company who have supported me
I have been lucky enough to work for a company who have supported me through this and after being open and honest with the people I work with, I don’t feel anyone has treated me differently. However I know that sadly this is not the case for everyone. I have been ill and I have been in a place where I literally have lost the will to live. But the key point is that I was ill. The illness does not define me!
Tuesday 17th July from 7.30pm: Tweet your question to C4's mental health panel
To launch their mental health season Channel 4 are holding a question and answer panel chaired by Jon Snow and including Ruby Wax, Sue Baker - Director of Time to Change, Dr Paul Litchfield - Chief Medical Officer, BT and Kevan Jones MP at 7.30pm on Tuesday 17th July. The topic is: 'To disclose or not to disclose in the workplace: whose business is mental illness?’
Media portrayals and reporting of mental illness are incredibly powerful in educating and influencing the public. The Time to Change Media Advice Service works to advise on and influence fictional and factual portrayals of people with mental health problems in the media.
Read more about Ruby's Mad Confessions, the programme Derek featured in.