Comedienne and actress, Rebecca Front, opens up about her mental health problem and why she chose to encourage others to speak out through Twitter.

Video transcript: Rebecca Front talks about mental health

Rebecca Front | Time to ChangeIt’s time to talk; it’s time to change.

Hello, I’m Rebecca Front and I am an actress and a writer and I have had panic attacks in the past. I am having one right now in fact. Because I have been claustrophobic since I was a child and I have had one or two other anxieties issues, because quite often phobias spiral into other areas, I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t talk about it actually. I have got several friends who have got other anxiety issues or other mental health problems of different sorts and we all talk about it very openly.

Now that might be something to do with my job; with the fact that I an actress and you are encouraged to be very open and actually to use those sort of things. I mean in the character I played in “The Thick of It” for example, I actually used the fact that she was a claustrophobic, because I was a claustrophobic and it added to the humour and the reality of the character.

So for me it has never been a big deal talking about it. I think social networking is a really good tool for mental health issues because when you are having any kind of mental health problem – and I can only speak from my own experience which is very, very low level on a day to day basis. But I think what you need more than anything else is to be able to talk to people. Talk to friends, talk to experts. Talk to people who can say to you “Okay this is not weird; it is not bizarre and it is something that you can get help with.”

The What Stigma campaign as it has been referred to, absolutely amazed me, because it wasn’t meant to be a campaign at all. It was just a message from me saying “Well lots of people have mental health issues don’t they?” I couldn’t understand why we weren’t talking about it more. And then lots and lots and lots of people started to speak up, or the equivalent on Twitter.

I thought they were tremendously courageous. Because for me, people that I work with know that I have claustrophobia and they know that I don’t use lifts and that is fine. And I don’t have any sort of fear of talking about it. It is commonly known about me. So for people to start tweeting to their followers and allowing it to be retweeted to lots of other people that they had mental health issues that they had never, ever talked about before, I thought was unbelievably courageous. And that really moved me.

I mean a couple of times I was actually just close to tears just reading these things and thinking “That is extraordinary that people are talking about it now.” It is amazing.

I think it sort of doesn’t matter who you talk to really. If you just have a sense that somebody is going to be sympathetic then just a couple of words to them might be all that you need to open the door to a dialogue. It might simply be a question of saying “I am feeling very stressed.” Or “I am feeling a bit anxious” or “I had an anxiety dream last night.” Or something that will open up a dialogue and it helps you to find other people who are suffering from the same situation as you.

So yes, just say something; don’t keep it all to yourself. You don’t have to kind of accost people on the street and tell them, unless you want to. But just go up to somebody that you trust and maybe even in a jokey way just kind of say “Oh boy, I am feeling pretty stressed at the moment.” And you will be surprised I think how open people can be about it.

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