Tag Archive | Samaritans

Mental Health First Aid

mental healthThis week I will be on an intensive 2-day mental health first aid course in London. This is part of my role as a mental health champion (doesn’t sound quite the right title does it?!) at work and I am hoping that the course lives up to my expectations so that I am able to recommend that others across our network also take the course in future.

I am sure they will be two long days and will be tiring, interesting, thought-provoking but most of all useful. I am looking forward to it and will let you know how I get on.

Useful links

Mental Health First Aid England

Mental Health First Aid England/Workplace

 City Mental Health Alliance

MIND- Suicide support





One year on….

from my last devastating relapse into a severe depression and how am I doing?

Quite well actually.

This time last year I was suicidal, hopeless, uncommunicative and emotionally numb. Fluctuating between tears and staring into blank space, spending 16-20 hours asleep too exhausted and uninterested to get out of bed I knew I was in trouble and with my reactions to this illness  honed from previous episodes of depression I switched to auto-pilot and found myself at the GP surgery seeking help.

The good thing about recovering from bouts of depression is that you know you can do it. It gives you hope. It keeps you from buying THAT bottle of vodka which you want to mix with the Valium/Tramadol tablets stored in the drawer upstairs for just these desperate times. When asked by the Doctor if I would consider killing myself my answer is unequivocally “Yes.” Why would I want to live my life feeling (or not feeling) like this? What do I have to live for? I have failed in everything I have done. I have no skills. My husband could look after himself without me.  My son is now 18 and can live independently. Who would miss me anyway?

These were hard times yet I had done so well being off my antidepressants for 18 months. But the sudden and unpredicted spiral into a major depression convinced me that it was just too hard to carry on without the support they give me. I’m not ashamed of taking them. They work for me and if they enable me to enjoy a certain quality of life, continue working and stay alive then bring them on.

Thankfully I have a great GP service. I have a Clinical psychologist who has known me for more than 20 years who understands me and my illness. They work together and come up with the best treatment for me. My medication was changed to suit my symptoms, which now include anxiety as well as depression, and the dose was adjusted until I reached a stable mood level. Sadly, I am one of the lucky ones who have this support. Everyone should have this expertise and care but the funds just are not available. This is appalling and condemns too many people to an existence that need not be.

More funding; more understanding of the complexity of mental illness; more mental health professionals; a review of the police reaction to suicide attempts and those with mental illness; respite facilities; talking therapies and counselling; regular drug reviews; support for families etc etc etc; I could go on and on but there is so much work that needs to be done in the treatment of mental illness I would be here for a year trying to explain.

We have made a great start by encouraging people to talk openly and honestly about their experiences whether good or bad. Everyone has their own experience of mental illness which should be respected. One size does not fit all but there are basic things we can all do to help those with mental illness- being kind and understanding is top of the list.


Today is World Mental Health Day 2012

Raising awareness of mental health issues is critical if we are to reduce the stigma attached to mnetal illness and help people recover in a safe and understanding environment.

Today is World Mental Health Day and the focus is on the “Black Dog” that is depression.

If you know someone who is depressed and don’t know how to deal with it take time today to find out more about this illness and read up on how you can help.

If you suffer with depression yourself, you must seek help. This is a treatable condition and you will get better. It just takes time. Go and see your GP or contact a relevant organisation for more information.

Information is available from;

Depression Alliance


Royal College of Psychiatrists




Devastating depression

As Mental Health Champion at work I regularly get calls from my colleagues asking for information, support and guidance about depression either for themselves or for others they know who are suffering. I am often talking to people in confidence about their life, friends and family and privy to sensitive and personal information revealed as a result of their low mood and obvious symptoms that something is very wrong. All this in the hope that I will be able to help in some small way.

Thankfully I am pleased to say that I can usually help if only by giving them information about where to get the help and support offered by our employer, friends, family and mental health organisations together with the clinical support critical to early diagnosis and improved chances of complete recovery. I pride myself on my ability to listen without judgement and to offer practical solutions to immediate concerns. By being open and honest about my experience with depression I am helping others fight and come to terms with their own battles against mental illness and importantly fighting the stigma still attached to mental illness.

Not a lot shocks me any more. As Indiana Jones quotes in Raiders of the Lost Ark, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage” and I have covered a good few many miles over my half a century so all in all I tend to take things that people tell me in my stride. Since being back at work after the Christmas and New Year holidays however I have been truly shocked. Shocked not with what people have confided in me, but bowled over by the sheer number of calls, texts, emails and meetings I have had with colleagues asking for help. This is so sad. January is always a difficult time for many with long, dark days. Too much month left until PayDay and an overall deflated feeling after the over-hyped celebrations of Christmas and New Year but somehow this year feels worse than usual.

For me personally I have already seen a good friend signed off work for a month with suspected BPD; A team trying to deal with open and misguided prejudice against a colleague off sick with depression; someone else re-admitted to The Priory Clinic just 5 months after a failed suicide attempt. If I know this number of people and a lot more besides who are suffering with depression, anxiety or other mental illness how many more are out there? You may know a few; a lot; no-one if you are lucky but please spare a thought for those in despair and try to help where you can.

We all know that the economic situation ain’t great. People generally have less money than before and reading the newspaper headlines can be depressing in itself. But remember. You don’t need money to show compassion and help others who are struggling to cope. Depression is non-discriminatory and is no respecter of riches or achievements. Depression can strike anyone at anytime and I for one would like to know that in times of trouble I can rely on my friends, family and colleagues to be patient, kind and understanding so I can get back on my own two feet as soon as I possibly can.

Bear this in mind, not just this month, but all year. It’s not too late to add another resolution to your tally.

“Be kind”

The Samaritans

08457 909090

Gary Speed- Legend

There are very few people who you can describe as a legend in their own lifetime but the footballer/manager Gary Speed is one of them. Hard working, grounded and the ultimate professional he was an example to all young footballers everywhere and he will be sadly missed.

Appearances suggest that he had everything to live for. Clearly Gary felt otherwise and whether the desperation which led him to take his own life built up gradually or was triggered by recent developments we the public may never know.  I hope however that his beloved family gain some insight into this tragedy so that they have a chance to come to terms with the loss of a husband, son and father and are able to rebuild their lives in due course. Whatever transpires over the coming days and weeks they can be immensely proud of this talented and unassuming man and his achievements.

There have been times in my life that the depression has been so overwhelming and so suffocating that ending my life seemed the only solution but thankfully I have always been able to see through the shroud of darkness and I never lost the hope that keeps you going. I have a wonderful family, fabulous friends and receive amazing support and comfort from the mental health professionals who know me from way back. For some reason Gary lost that hope and it is sad beyond comprehension that he should feel this was the only way out.

My thoughts are with his family and friends who are facing up to a life without Gary and the void he leaves behind. I hope that the media respects their privacy and allows them to grieve without intrusion and idle speculation.

RIP Gary Speed-Legend.

No elephants at our picnic!

The topic of  depression can often be the ultimate “elephant in the room“. When depression is mentioned or revealed people often react by looking at their feet, up at the ceiling, anywhere but looking you in the eye and instead resort to shuffling their feet in embarrassment and fear of what to say in response. A rampaging elephant on heat in the room would be more welcome.

Whilst the reaction I have received over the last 12 months to my admission that I have depression has been nothing but supportive and positive, I recognise the “elephant” syndrome from previous experiences.

So how joyous was it yesterday to meet up with fellow Depression Alliance members, depression sufferers, friends, Samaritan volunteers and representatives from MIND for a picnic and to be able to talk openly and honestly about our personal experiences of depression with our “tribe”. It was fantastic and we should do it more often.

If only we can get more people to talk about depression, accept it as an illness like any other, realise that those who get depression are usually the nicest people around and the most dedicated to their work, and that one day we will surely be part of the  majority not the minority so be nice to us NOW! we will have done a good job by educating those who are lucky enough not to have the Black Dog sitting on their shoulder.

In the meantime, picnics like this, social gatherings arranged for like-minded people and their families are the perfect way to embrace this illness and get real support from those who understand.

Picnic now! It’s fun, therapeutic, an opportunity to soak up the rays and boost those Vitamin D levels and to eat healthy summer salads and fruit. If you do what we did and play rounders and indulge in Space Hopper racing, you can also get some exercise too and boost the much-needed endorphines!

What’s stopping you? Picnic this weekend and you will feel better for it!


  You may also like:

Depression Alliance Big


The Times-Taming the black dog men & depression

The truth about men and depression by those who live with it.

If you can get hold of today’s Times, you will find a great article in The Times 2 Section called Taming the black dog written about men and depression by men who live with it.

I live with depression and I talk about it a lot as you will have noticed. There are two topics which are particularly close to my heart. The first is stigma. I am committed to reducing the stigma surrounding depression by talking openly and honestly about my experiences. More of that another time.

The second concerns men and depression. From experience I believe that it is more difficult for men to admit to feeling depressed and they are less likely to seek help and support when needed. I wrote a post for my Blog before Christmas called “Man Blue” which addresses some of the concerns raised in the Times’ article. I am not going to repeat them in this post as you can link back to the original, but the facts speak for themselves. In the UK alone, 30 men under 45 commit suicide every week. This is shocking and proof, if any is needed, that more support is required to help our men.

My husband has depression and has found it very difficult to cope with. Initially seeing it as a weakness he went through various stages of resentment, guilt, self-hatred and low self-esteem. Fortunately he is married to someone who genuinely understands the symptoms and behaviour patterns associated with depression and together we will get through it.

I am taking the liberty to write on behalf of all women who understand this illness to pledge our care and support to all men suffering with depression. Speak up you guys. If you need help ask and remember “Depression is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you have been trying too hard for too long”.

Talk to someone today it may save your life.

You may also like;

Man Blue-Poppyposts



The Scent of Dried Roses-Tim Lott memoir of suicidal depression