Tag Archive | Depression Alliance

Lifting the lid on depression-my personal story

“Lifting the lid on depression” was an event put on jointly by KPMG and Citigroup in Canary Wharf last Thursday. As the title suggests, the aim of the evening was to raise the issue of depression as a topic that can be discussed openly and to provide a forum of support and information for anyone touched by this illness.

The event was well attended, we had to close the registration process 2 days before the seminar, and was a huge success. I will publish a write up of the evening and it’s content, format and impact soon as other organisations may wish to follow suit and provide this sort of evening for their employees and management. In the meantime, here is a short version of my speech, my personal story, which I know from emails I have already received resonated with so many and encouraged them to take their first steps to recovery.

I could have said a lot more about how I actually deal with my depression on a day to day basis now, the meds I take, the impact it has on friends and family but I wanted to focus on the more positive aspects of my experience. That doesn’t mean that I am not open to questions.

Lifting the lid on depression 10 March 2011-My personal story

Here we are today 150 of us lifting the lid on depression.

This is fantastic and I hope that with your help and more importantly with your participation this afternoon we do just that for everyone here. Whether you have depression yourself, have a friend or relative with depression or have to manage and support someone at work let’s deal with this illness.

Before I go any further I just want to say a few words about my depression and how I feel today.

This time last week I wasn’t bouncing around like Tigger on speed which can often be the case but life was OK.

This week however it’s a very different story. Low mood and despair hit me like a train at the weekend and now I feel more like Eeyore; Glum and pessimistic at best and downright miserable at worst. Monday morning I went into meltdown. I withdrew from my family and colleagues and it was only with the support provided by my best buddy that I was able to carry on and get through the day. He deserves a 10/10 for effort, persistence and the encouragement that he gave me. Thank you. I wouldn’t be here today without it.

But that’s what depression does to a person and today, instead of feeling confident and assured I am finding this experience quite overwhelming and worrying. At times like this, I can get tearful and a little shaky so if I have to stop for a while and take a few deep breaths to compose myself please bear with me.

I’m happy to be here talking about my experiences and hope that I will get through the next 5 minutes or so without the tears. But if it happens, it happens. That’s just how it is and I imagine that many of you out there will know how it feels.

Up until last year I made sure that I kept my depression well and truly hidden. I did this for thirty years.

Why did I do this?

Mainly because I was ashamed of myself and the perceived weakness associated with this illness and because of the stigma and discrimination I thought would adversely affect my career. That has all changed for me now, but I will come on to that later.

I grew up as a young child in a household where depression was a beast. My mother was a depressive and was admitted as in-patient to a local psychiatric hospital. I’m sure that some of you here today are wondering how to deal with depression and what, when and how to tell children about it.

I can only say from my experience as a mature and intelligent child that I believe that more honesty and openness would have helped me cope much better with the implications of depressive illness not just as a child but as a teenager and adult. That said, I also appreciate the difficulties that need to be considered and every case will be different.

Like much about depression, it’s debatable.

Roll-back to last year and lifting the lid on my depression.

I was fed up, tired and totally drained after 30 years of pretending everything was “Ok”, “Fine” and “Hunky Dory”  when I decided that the time was right to lift the lid on my depression and admit to my family, friends and colleagues that I have repeated and often very debilitating bouts of depression.

Most people were totally unaware of my continued battle against this illness and that depression was the reason behind frequent and sometimes prolonged absences from work. You could regularly find me camping out in my bedroom with only my TV, kettle and toaster for company weeks on end. I waited to do my shopping until the middle of the night at the 24 hour Tesco round the corner to make sure I didn’t meet anyone who might talk to me and even now I can find myself full of envy for grizzly bears that can hibernate without recrimination for months on end. How lovely that must be.

I was determined to put an end to the pretence and deception I felt I was inflicting on myself and others and so on the 26th May 2010 I sent what was to become a bombshell of an email to 30 of my friends and colleagues telling them my story.

This was not a spur of the moment action. It was a considered decision on my part and it felt the right thing to do at the time.

I was fully prepared for the consequences.

Or so I thought.

I actually got it very wrong. I completely misjudged the reaction of every single person. Whereas I had in fact geared myself up for negative responses and reproach what I received instead without exception were many words of support, understanding and kindness.

This very positive response took me completely by surprise and I found it totally overwhelming. These are just a few of the comments I received that day.

A very brave step indeed to publicly ‘out’ yourself, but well done for doing so.  If no ones does, there will be no improvements!

I think depression is hugely misunderstood and I think its great that it gets a no-nonsense representative like you!

Well done Caroline, what an incredibly positive thing you are doing xx”

Your insight and honesty is going to resonate with so many and give them comfort 🙂

It’s my pleasure to support the fight against the stigma towards mental illness

It’s like Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world” so with more people like you around we’ll get there.”

The Depression Alliance’s motto is “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. I think that my own personal journey began with a giant leap into the unknown but I have no regrets so far.

What followed on from my email has been nothing short of astonishing and my day to day life has changed dramatically as a result. These are just a few of the things that I have been involved in.

June 2010- I was featured in the Financial Times article called No Room for Gloom written by Clive Cookson.

I was invited to sit on the KPMG Disability Steering group as champion for mental health and I am now in a position to help and advise KPMG on a number of initiatives which will benefit our employees.

Emer from the Depression Alliance who is here today  kindly invited me to the House of Commons launch of the report Depression, Disability and Employment compiled jointly by the Depression Alliance & RADAR and sponsored by the Priory Clinics.

Professor Chris Thompson from The Priory is here on our panel today. Together with Jonathan from Stand to Reason, these people are at the cutting edge of depression and its impact upon individuals, friends and family. Try and get to speak with them if you can. You will learn a lot.

I am a registered Rethink activist and Time to Change campaigner.

I also write a daily Blog which provides others with my personal insight on living with depression, and includes handy tips and importantly acts as a forum for others struggling with depression to come together and feel they are not alone with this illness.

What is in store for 2011 and beyond?

My focus for this year centres very much on the stigma associated with depression and issues like;

Why should people with mental illness and depression be pilloried and discriminated against because of their illness?

Why are there still so many un-busted myths about depression and anxiety?

What can we all do to help eradicate the stigma?

I’m no longer ashamed of my illness. It is part of me and who I am and I believe that I am a better person for the experience. One of the most humbling lessons in life that having depression has taught me is to never judge a person. There is a saying.

“To write a person off as worthless is an act of great violence-Don’t do it.”

2011-My Mission

This year I am on a mission and my aim is to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and depression in particular.


Because everyone deserves a chance.

Why should you and I care?

You and I should care because depression is non-discriminatory and unpredictable. Tomorrow it could descend on you or someone you care about.

To help me in my quest I have a call to action for you:

Going away from here today I would like everyone here to start talking openly and honestly about mental health issues and your experiences of depression. Only in this way will we effect change.

I’m not saying its going to be easy but I am telling you it will be worth it.

Thank you for listening.

Why did I start my Blog? Part 2

Continued from my previous post-Why did I start my Blog-Part 1

Following on quickly from the cathartic exercise of writing to JSP, a strange thing happened. At 4am on Wednesday 26 May, I woke up with the sole intention that day to tell some of my closest friends and colleagues that I have depression and to commit to helping eradicate the stigma attached to mental illness. I have no idea why I woke up on that particular morning with that particular goal in mind but I was obsessed. At this point, only 2 or 3 people were aware of my struggles.

I wrote my email and by 5am, it was ready to send to approximately 30 people at work. My finger hovered over the “send” button but for a millisecond before I launched my confession into cyberspace. At the time I felt a mixture of dread, relief, anticipation but most importantly I felt clean. I could be who I am. No more acting or pretence which is exhausting and whatever the outcome, I sensed that I had done the right thing at the right time.

It didn’t take long for the responses to come flooding back and the comments I received were overwhelmingly positive. I don’t use that word lightly. It was simply overwhelming.

“Well done, I think your strength and generosity is incredible”

“What an incredibly positive thing you are doing”

“I have always thought highly of you but this surpasses that by a mile”

“very inspiring”

“I am so proud and impressed. You are indeed an inspiration”

What followed on from this email has been nothing short of amazing and I am not going to go through the detail here but will list some events briefly so that you get an idea of how big this topic has become in my life since last May.

  • June 2010- I was interviewed by Clive Cookson the Chief Science Editor of the Financial Times for his article “No Room For Gloom” which was published on 14 June.
  • July 2010- I was invited to sit on the KPMG Disability Steering Group and Mental Health Champion.
  • October 2010- I attended the launch of the Depression, Disability and Employment report compiled by the Depression Alliance and RADAR, sponsored by Priory Clinics at the House of Commons.
  • November 2010- I started to help organise a corporate seminar about depression in the City taking place in March. This is a high profile event with well-known speakers.
  • November/December 2010-  I joined the Aspire Heroines Quest.

My Campaign is:

To eradicate the stigma attached to mental illness in general and depression in particular.


Everyone deserves a chance.

Why should you care?

Because depression is non-discriminatory. Tomorrow it could be you or someone you care about.

Call to action:

I would like everyone to start talking openly and honestly about mental health issues and experiences of depression. Only in this way will we effect change.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world”-Mahatma Gandhi

  • December 2010- I registered as a Time To Change Champion and a Rethink Activist.

As you can see, events have rather taken over and as I have tried to combine all this with a full-time job which involves travelling the length and breadth of the UK  I am paying the price now. I am mentally and emotionally exhausted.

I was so worn down at the beginning of November that I was advised to take some time off work to recuperate.  I didn’t want to speak to anyone, go out anywhere or do anything. I wanted to be left alone, in peace and quiet with just my thoughts. That didn’t work completely as I still had lots that I needed to say. Unable to converse without bursting into tears I began to write more and more. I filled notebooks and journals with poems, stories and experiences. All my pent up emotions from the last 30 years were being poured out onto paper.

Then I decided to create a Blog for me. Like many people, I didn’t expect anyone to read my posts. Why would they? And so it began. I’m not terribly clever with IT, but I have managed to create a Blogging environment which I am happy with. I chose the name Poppyposts as the flowers in my garden last year were so beautiful, and the photos I had of the poppies were my favourite. The bright orange showy blooms symbolise the vibrant person inside waiting to escape, but they are also some of the most fragile flowers in the border. A sharp gust of wind, or heavy rain shower  can soon put paid to the petals so I try and protect and shield them by surrounding them with stronger more resilient shrubs. The shrubs may not be so colourful but they work hard and are a constant support for these delicate plants.

Poppyposts is therefore part of me and I am nurturing it as best I can with the much welcomed support of anyone who cares to provide it. For everyone who has so far connected with me and left their kind words for me to read, I am most grateful. Although I don’t expect people to read my witterings, it’s undoubtedly nice when they do.

For anyone who cares to join me and my friends for the journey, you are more than welcome.

In a nutshell (!), that is why I started my Blog.

Thank you for making it to the end-you must have one of the many of the attributes I lack. Patience.

Depression- stigma and discrimination

 Prejudice Ignorance Fear postcard

We all know about the stigma associated with mental illness and depression. We have probably all experienced it or seen it happen. The scale of discrimination against those with mental illness is shameful. The impact of stigma and discrimination upon individuals, communities and society is devastating, so why should we care and what can we do to eradicate it?

By speaking and writing openly and honestly about my experience of depression, I want to help to educate more people about depression and its symptoms and impact on all concerned.  I want to Stop The Ignorance (and) Generate Mental-illness Awareness. I want to de-mystify this illness and correct all those myths which can lead to discrimination.

Membership form

Why should we care?

According to “Stigma Shout” produced by Time To Change, stigma and discrimination;

  • Prevents people from seeking help
  • Delays treatment
  • Impairs recovery
  • Isolates people
  • Excludes people from day-to-day activities
  • stops people getting jobs

So how can you help?

Without doubt this problem is huge and beyond the best intentions of one or two individuals. What we need is for as many people suffering with mental illness to talk about their experiences and provide first hand experience of stigma and discrimination to organisations such as Depression Alliance, Rethink, MIND, Mental Health Media and Time To Change. These organisations fight every day for a fairer deal, more respect and extra support for those with mental illness. Consider being a Time To Change Champion or Rethink Activist.

We need successful people living with depression to come forward and explain how they cope. All those people who are in recovery can stand up and give hope to everyone not quite there yet.

Let us educate and communicate with the general public, family and friends so that they better understand depression and learn to see us, not the illness.

No, it’s not easy, and not everyone reading this will be able to or want to put themselves forward to assist. That’s OK too.

T ime To Change Campaign

BBC Access All Areas-Bi-Polar and Autism “hidden” disabilities

Cllr Robert Inwood speaks out


International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Tomorrow, December 3rd,  is International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Is depression a disability? I think so, and so do many others who find themselves unable to function normally on a day-to-day basis. This was the conclusion of research carried out by the Depression Alliance and RADAR in support of a report entitled Depression, Disability and Employment sponsored by the Priory Group and launched at the Houses of Parliament back in October.

The Priory Group is now calling on the Government to class depression as a disability to improve people’s opportunities for employment and other forms of social participation.

In other words, depression should be treated as a disability in the same way as physical disabilities, and reasonable adjustments in the workplace made accordingly for those suffering from this illness.

Professor Chris Thompson, chief medical officer at the Priory Group said:   “This important research clearly shows most people living with depression think it is disabling.   Yet the stark truth is that our systems and services do not seem to have caught up with this recognition.”

Liz Sayce, chief Executive of RADAR and author of the report said:  “People with depression face as many barriers as people with physical impairments. We need the mental health equivalent of the ramp and the mobility scooter – simply fair chances and support to live a full life including the chance to work and contribute. Often depression runs like a thread through lives affected by other challenges – from physical ill health to racial discrimination. Supporting people with depression helps people to turn their lives around.”

So, what will I be doing tomorrow?

I for one will be celebrating the achievements and unique talents of all my friends and colleagues that I know who have a disability be it mental or physical. In doing so, I hope to raise awareness of the unmerited stigma, discrimination and ignorance which shrouds this topic and show people that we may be disabled, but, with a little support, we are still very able.

Have a Good Day!

You may also like;

Ian Francis-photographer


Colleen Henderson-Heywood-Take One Minute

Priory Group, DA & RADAR take on Westminster

UN Enable-Mental Health & Development

Stop to smell the roses…

This post has been inspired by certain members of the Depression Alliance who have a wonderfully addictive talent for photography. Some people take pictures. Others take pictures that you want to look at over and over again. Is it just my imagination, or does the Depression Alliance have more than their fair share of  talented photographers?

From personal experience, I truly understand why someone who is depressed might want to take up photography as a pastime or profession. I take hundreds of pictures, but I am no more than a seasoned snapper in comparison to some DA members I have had the pleasure to come across. So why photography?

By carrying a camera and focussing on your preferred subject matter, whatever that may be, taking photographs motivates  you to get out and about. This is something that can be a major hurdle towards recovery for those of us who find making the giant leap over our front door step impossible at times. Wherever you live, there will be fascinating topics to photograph close by if you just spare the time to stop and look.

If you are concentrating on finding subject matter and taking pictures you will be blocking out other thoughts. This in turn gives you welcome relief from the stresses and strains caused by those dark, brooding  musings which can trigger anxiety and depression. Hopefully, you will also feel re-energised and relaxed as a result. Taking photographs  makes you focus on and enjoy the moment, something which depressives are not great at doing. In other words, photography helps you to “stop to smell the roses” and enjoy the peace and tranquility that being as one with your camera can bring.

Photography also enables you to express yourself and your emotions through an art form. This is important as depression often suffocates the normal channels of communication leading to greater frustration and anger which is more often than not turned inwards. This is not healthy as emotions need to be expressed and expunged so photography is a welcome outlet for many.

Last but not least, if you enjoy taking photographs, and those you share them with also enjoy your pictures, how wonderful does that make you feel? Everyone sees something different in a photo. The picture means and represents something unique for all. So, whatever you think of your picture , the chances are that someone, somewhere will think it is fantastic. What greater accolade can there be than for someone to tell you that your photograph is beautiful?

Members of the DA are able to post their photographs on a private Flickr site created by the photographer John Gass. This ensures that DA members can post more personal work in a protected environment.

Otherwise, I recommend that you take a look at some photograph galleries created by Ian Francis which are published on the BBC Mid-Wales website. Taken over the past few years, they are truly gorgeous and some are just downright brilliant.

Take your inspiration from Ian. Grab a camera and go-you won’t regret it for one minute. Enjoy!