Ruby Wax talks about mental health stigma and depressionRuby Wax has experienced episodes of depression for most of her life, but it wasn't until she finally checked into a clinic, that she realised how widespread mental health problems are: "It's so common, it could be anyone. The trouble is, nobody wants to talk about it. And that makes everything worse."

Ruby has written about depression and used the topic for her one-woman shows as a way of getting the subject out in the open. "We need to take the stigma out of mental illness. People shouldn't be ashamed of it." Ruby manages her depression through therapy and medication and is optimistic about the future: "It used to be the 'C' word - cancer - that people wouldn't discuss. Now it's the 'M' word. I hope pretty soon it'll be okay for everyone to talk openly about their mental health without fear of being treated differently."

"1 in 5 people have dandruff. 1 in 4 people have mental health problems. I’ve had both." Download a Ruby Wax Poster (PDF)

Ruby Wax talks about what it is like to live with depression

Video transcript

Ruby Wax: You see the thing about depression is – and why people feel – well I feel a lot of shame is that there is nothing wrong with you on the outside. I mean you know you don’t have any lumps, or you don’t have any scars. You are not in a wheelchair. So people go “Come on, come on!” Especially in England they say “Stiff upper lip; snap out of it.” And you can’t.

I mean it is like being pregnant; you are either pregnant or you are not. So when you are sick it is the real thing. I mean you know it. It is not like you are sitting on your porch singing the blues with a banjo because your baby has left you. I mean this is deep, dark, numbing abyss hell. So you will know when you have got it; but the point is nobody will believe you and that is the kind of horror of it all.

And the other thing I need to say and it is really a shaming thing is I hope you don’t feel that it is just people on television who have this. You know that – I mean that is embarrassing for me is that people think “Well you have got it all; you have got a career; you have got kids and stuff.” But it hits everybody and the shame of this is – another shame – is that you know Mrs Who-is-not-on-television is going to be really embarrassed because she is going to think “Ooh am I being self-indulgent?” So there are all those people all over the world; all over one in four, who are suddenly going to feel like suicide; or are going to feel really ill; or really numb; or really frightened because they don’t quite understand what this thing is.

So if you have got it you have really got it; so you have got to do something about it. I like medication – or you can see a shrink. But do one or the other; or both.

Ruby Wax gives advice on what to do if your friend is living with depression

Video transcript

Ruby Wax: If you are the lucky one that doesn’t have depression, the three odd out of four that might not understand it and you meet somebody with depression, the worst thing you can do is say “Come on pull yourself together.” Just imagine that inside of their head they are just as ill as somebody maybe who broke their leg or who has diabetes.

You wouldn’t say “Don’t take the insulin.” I mean you really have to believe that this is the real thing.

When you hear their negativity or they might be abusive, or whatever you are getting from them, that is their disease talking, it is not them. Because they are still a human being and they will get better probably if they take care, or you help them take care.

Now this isn’t catching or you know they can’t work or whatever because part of you is still healthy. But please respect the sick part and treat it like somebody who has really got something. Because it does exist. This isn’t your imagination. As a matter of fact your imagination is really ill. So think of it that way.

Blogs related to Ruby Wax

Derek blogs about Ruby Wax's Mad Confessions"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." Derek blogs about appearing on Channel 4's Ruby Wax's Mad Confessions >>

What do you think about the issues raised in these videos?

Share your views with us on Twitter >>

Read more personal stories about mental health stigma and discrimination.

Or sign our pledge wall to show your support and find out how talking tackles mental health discrimination.