Depression: Breaking Through the Barriers

Bringing you news once a week on the ongoing 60 Postcards journey (you can read a summary of the story here), and on Friday I share a story of an inspirational person, project or cause.

The issue of mental health is a very topical one right now, especially with the tragic loss of Robin Williams who was suffering from depression. It is an extremely tough subject for me to write about as I have not experienced depression myself and on researching for this piece, I realised just how little I know. I want to know.

I noticed, when reading up on a subject that has hit the headlines so strongly, the internet is swamped with thousands of articles. Every one has a slightly different angle and some report slightly different statistics. Most have a journalist’s opinion entwined. Some are helpful, others are absolutely not. What we must remember is that, despite the fact that it is a vitally important talking point, Robin’s family and friends are in mourning – I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be for them to see so much written about the man they love and miss when they are in pain and shock.

One of the main points that is crystal clear from everything I have read, though, is that depression should not be simplified. It is an extremely complex condition that can be psychological or medical which can be difficult to diagnose and to treat, often due to the stigma surrounding it. We need educating on the matter. We need to do more to help others. We need to encourage people to speak out.

I don’t feel that I am qualified to say much more on this. I can only voice my own opinions or understanding of the issue on here. But, I do have friends who have suffered/are suffering from depression and one of them has bravely spoken out about their experience and her view of what needs to change:

 “When you are physically ill, like having the flu, most people tend to let others know (or the signs are obvious). This normally results in friends and family giving comfort and making you feel better. The difficultly with depression is that the signs may not be obvious or understood by others. When going through particularly difficult stages of depression the last thing you want to do is to socialise, to talk to loved ones, it’s too hard. Therefore when someone makes the brave step of letting a friend know it can be crushing when well-meaning advice further highlights the lack of understanding surrounding this illness. ‘You’ve just had a couple of bad weeks things will get better’, ‘You should go out, it will help you snap out if it’ or, ‘Things are going really well in your life right now, how can you possibly be depressed?’. This is such a frustrating circle, you fear getting the wrong reaction, you keep quiet which leads to a lack of discussion which keeps depression a hidden issue. Once you tell someone you have suffered from depression it is very unlikely that this will be forgotten. Can you remember the last time a friend had a cold? Did it affect what you thought of them as a person? I’m pretty sure it didn’t, not sure the same can be said about depression. It is not easy to understand especially if you have never personally experienced it. If someone is strong enough to share their experiences with you, there isn’t a perfect response that will solve everything. It will be challenging, it will take time but it is crucial to keep lines of communication open and ultimately will be the best thing you can do to play your part in breaking down the stigma associated with
depression.”

I am so grateful to my friend for sharing this. It can’t have been easy to write, but I was blown away. So articulate, brave and honest.

Ashley James hAshleyJamesas a huge following of her highly successful blog, www.ashleylouisejames.com. I have recently become one of those followers. I enjoy the eclectic mix of posts – on beauty, lifestyle, travel, books – but recently it was a post she published for the Metro on dealing with anxiety and depression that I believe was, by far, her most powerful piece yet.

Through her words, she tries to give an insight into what it feels like for a sufferer using experiences that we can all relate to, Have you ever had a friend, a lover, a teacher, or a boss who constantly puts you down and makes you feel terrible? The beauty of having negative people in your life is that you can walk away from them, but when that voice is coming from your own head you can’t escape.’ 

Within her post she covers the frustration, just as my friend touched on, of when things may appear to be all OK to an outsider. She explains that although many would look on and say she has a fantastic life, there doesn’t have to be anything ‘wrong’ for you to suffer.

The blog post has been syndicated on several sites and I smiled from afar as I saw the flurry of tweets – of deserved praise and thanks – that she was receiving on twitter for opening up. Despite my blog beginning due to a different experience to hers, I felt a connection to Ashley as she had written the post long before she published it, just as I had done with my first post about losing Mum. It’s a terrifying prospect to put yourself out there. ‘I want people to feel able to speak out’, was her closing comment and that is also a point that I have repeated on this blog and in my book.

During a chat with my friend last night, we discussed that no matter what the issue may be – depression, bereavement, cancer – as much as we will continue to do everything we can to raise money for research and medication/cures, it is the preventative approach of raising awareness that we – as a society – have a huge amount of power over.

Here are just a few of the many charities that offer support to those with mental health issues:

Depression Alliance  |  CALM  |  Young Minds  |  Sane  |  Mind

The inspirational aspect of this post today is for my friend, for Ashley and for all those who are choosing to speak out. Every person who does is helping towards breaking through the barriers and squashing that unnecessary stigma.

It may be, without realising, that there is someone close to us who is going through this. If we work together to get educated and gain a better understanding on the topic, then we have more chance of helping those in need and to point them in the direction of help towards charities such as the ones mentioned above.

Speak to you next week.

Much love,

Rachael x

Come Along to the Battersea Lit Fest!

Bringing you news once a week on the ongoing 60 Postcards journey (you can read a summary of the story here), and on Friday I share a story of an inspirational person, project or cause.

batlitfest

From the 1st to the 14th of September the South West of London are bringing you the Battersea Literary Festival and I have been asked along to have a natter about my book. This festival is presented by the Clapham Junction Town Centre Partnership and is made up of talks and workshops. It is the perfect event for writers and book lovers alike.

IsabelIsabel Losada has worked as an actress, singer, dancer, researcher, tv producer, broadcaster, public speaker, comedian. Phew! And if that wasn’t enough, she is also a very successful author who has written five books (one of which I am about to start!). This year Isabel has been invited to become the artistic director of The Battersea Literature Festival and I was delighted to hear from her a few months ago. Her passion for books, writing and this event shone through from the first moment we spoke and I was especially excited to hear that I would be involved in an evening with two other authors – a chance for me to be an audience member too. The night is for authors under 30 (I managed to sneak in as I wrote my book at 29ish!) and I asked organiser Isabel why she wanted to put that evening together:

“A brilliant publicist approached me about an evening for Oscar Coop-Phane – a French author who published his first book at 20 and won the prestigious French Literary Prize the Prix de Flore in 2012.  She was so good I agreed to do an evening for him.  Couldn’t decide whether to make it a French evening or an evening for writers who are published when they are still under 30.  Personally I’m a great lover of narrative NON fiction as I love real life stories.  Also as I’d just finished reading ‘Everyday Sexism’ which also features in the festival – I was keen to give opportunities to women.  So I started asking around for published writers of narrative non-fiction of under 30 leading some to ask me, ‘What’s this? Your ageist sexist night?’  But I persevered and then I was sent details of Rachael’s wonderful book which instantly caught my attention.  ‘Ah, here is a story that is real’ I thought.  And I booked her.  The third author I booked is also under 30 but writes fiction.  The book ‘Golden Boy’ though is extraordinary and we’ll have a wonderful evening.”

About the Authors:

Oscar

Oscar Coop-Phane:

Oscar is an award-winning French author who left home at 16 with dreams of becoming a painter. At 20, he moved to Berlin, where he spent a year writing and reading classics. His astonishing debut, Zenith Hotel, was the result, and it immediately won the Prix de Flore.

AbigailAbigail Tarttelin:

Abigail comes from Grimsby and lives out of a small, red suitcase. She writes about books, feminism and stuff like saving libraries for both paper and onscreen publications. Her first novel, Flick, was released in 2011 with a free soundtrack of independent British music, and her second novel, Golden Boy, the story of beautiful intersex teenager Max Walker, came out in 2013 with a dustcover.

meRachael Chadwick:

Me? Well you guys know far too much about me as it is. A creative tribute for my Mum allowed me to speak openly about my loss, create new connections around the world and I was more than lucky to have been offered a book deal with the wonderful Simon & Schuster in September last year.

Event Details:

Location: Waterstones, Clapham 

Time: 7pm 

Price: £5

Book tickets online:  https://www.bac.org.uk/bac/shows/under30

Book tickets by telephone: 0207 223 2223

For other events during the festival, check out the Battersea Lit Fest Programme!

It would be fantastic to see some of you there! Please do let me know if you book to come along as the event will leave us plenty of time to chat afterwards and even go for a couple of drinks, perhaps!

I look forward to seeing you there :).

Enjoy your week.

Much love,

Rachael x

P.S: If you would like to be part of the 60 Postcards project and want to write a postcard in memory of someone to be scattered in NYC, then please read THIS POST which explains how you can get involved.

The Support of Mosaic

Bringing you news once a week on the ongoing 60 Postcards journey (you can read a summary of the story here), and on Friday I share a story of an inspirational person, project or cause.

Losing a loved one is the worst thing that we could ever imagine happening and, if it does, it is the most difficult thing to deal with. Life, from that moment, will never be the same again. You experience emotions you have never felt before – you are on a roller coaster of grief.

‘If I lost someone, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed’, you hear people say sometimes. And the thing is, if you want to spend every day in bed for a whole month, a year or more – then that is absolutely OK. There are no rights or wrongs. But as tough as it is, most come to realise that life simply has to go on – somehow. I was 28 years old when it happened to me – I feel lucky to have had the years I did with Mum. The people who need the most support in these situations are children who go through this pain at such a young age.

M1The Mosaic charity (based in Dorset) are here to help with their mission, ‘to create a child centred service which offers a pathway of support for 
bereaved children, young people and their families. 

To provide support for those young people facing the death of a loved one.

The way that they achieve this is by working with individuals or groups, giving advice to parents, and providing a residential programme for children and their families.

What I love about Mosaic is that they really encourage the children to talk openly about how they are feeling and beyond that, they encourage them to keep their lost loved one’s memory alive. There is a page on their site which has been written especially for children which offers comfort and support – such a simple yet important idea.

I also think that the residential support programme is a fantastic project. As I have spoken about before, the minute you know that someone else has gone through a similar situation, I believe an instant unspoken bond is made. You immediately feel less alone and this must be such a relief for any child going through the trauma of loss.

The charity only receive 30% of Local Authority funding and so the rest is made up through lottery grants, corporate sponsorship, donations from local clubs and fundraising. Pamper evenings, cake sales, family fund days, individual challenges and more are talked about on their news page and they are always looking for more so if you are in Dorset and have an idea then please get involved!

Fundraising Mosaic

It was the lovely Sarah at Mosaic who got in touch with me, as they had heard about 60 Postcards project and how it began as a creative tribute for my mum. I am so excited about meeting the team down in Dorset over the next couple of months and I am delighted to be attending and speaking at their conference in October. The conference is taking a closer look at bereavement and exploring more ways in which we can help children.

I look forward to creating a strong connection with Mosaic and hope that I can work with them in some way in the future. Helping children is something that my mum was so passionate about and that goes for me, too.

Thank you Mosaic for all that you do and I will see you very soon. (To follow them please see their site, Facebook and Twitter).

Have a fab weekend, all.

Rachael x