One in five of us suffers from depression over our lifetime- an experience that can be debilitating, humiliating, and that can sometimes end in tragedy. And it can hit anyone, regardless of gender, race, education, religion, class or sexuality. Theresa May recently revealed her plans to "transform" attitudes to mental health, with a focus on young people.
We hear from several brave people who wanted to share their experiences with depression and who hope that, by putting their faces to this illness, can help eradicate the persistent stigma around mental health.
Khadija, 25, Sales Assistant
I’m originally from Sudan and now I live in Wembley. I was six years-old when I moved to the UK.
I had depression when I was 14, but to be honest I didn’t know that’s what it was until I was referred to a counsellor by my GP after a big panic attack when I was in sixth form.
I was bullied at school because I was quiet and people knew I wouldn’t say anything to anyone. This was the cause of my depression.
I ended up leaving school with one GCSE, then I failed my A levels because of my depression. I didn’t have the motivation to do any work. I had to beg my teachers to let me retake, but I failed again. I managed to get an X grade. I’d never even heard of that!
There is huge stigma in the Muslim community about mental health. Some people think you have a jinn inside you (a supernatural being from Islamic theology), they might think you’re possessed. In Islam, we believe that this world is a test for the hereafter. After hardship, there is ease. That little quote is used a lot. And I really believe that.
I really do feel grateful that I had depression. It ended in 2012. I finished my counselling and didn’t want medication. I discovered motivational speakers on YouTube, and started to change my life by trying to be positive. I always say, "Thank God for your blessings." Now I look at my life and I realise my depression was my purpose – to inspire and impact the lives of others.
Helen, 26, Administrator
I first had eating issues when I was about 13. I started cutting down my food intake, stopped eating sweets and unhealthy things, and started worrying about my weight. It escalated to the point where I really struggled with eating anything and I hated my body and myself.
I suffer from depression and anxiety as well. It feels like you’ve got this bully who won’t go away; they’re being abusive and they’re horrible, but they’re inside your head and you can’t get rid of them.
I didn’t get any help with it until I was 18, when I went to see the NHS mental health services about my eating disorder. They weren’t very helpful.
People say the stigma around mental health is diminishing, but is it? I feel like people still don’t want to talk about it, or hear about it. The dream would be to see everyone who wanted help, and asked for help, get it – and get it quickly.
I’d like to just be 'normal'. To be able to get through life without thinking, “I’m terrible” would be nice.
James, 38, Founder of Born Clothing London
I have a wife, a job, two kids and I own a house. I’ve got a good life and I know that. But I’ve had depression since I was a teenager. My official diagnosis was Bipolar II Disorder. It was a bit like finding the missing piece to the jigsaw, only the jigsaw isn’t really what I’d hoped it was.
I lost my father when I was eight years-old and then I lost my brother too. All I wanted was a family. When I finally got it and that thing was still there, after all these years, it just felt really shit, like a slap in the face.
Last year, I reached the point where I couldn’t work out who I was anymore. I just lost it.
The depression eats you inside because you think, “I’m a father, I’m a husband, I’m a friend, and I can’t even perform basic tasks; things like getting out of bed, having a shower or looking after my children." When you tell your wife you want to kill yourself, it doesn’t really go down very well. It’s a weird thing to be cuddling your child and feeling like that. It just cuts you up. With this stuff, there isn’t always a reason. It’s just a part of me. I can’t separate me from depression; they’re one and the same thing.
Nathan, 19, Barista
I was diagnosed with depression and mild Asperger’s Syndrome when I was 16. Personally, I think Asperger’s is very often linked to depression. I couldn’t really socialise properly. I just wanted to stay at home and do nothing. I felt really empty, like I was going to be alone for the rest of my life. My Asperger’s definitely made it a lot harder. With Asperger’s Syndrome, it’s very difficult for me to explain myself, to understand social cues, to make eye contact.
I forced myself into social situations that I found really difficult and, with the help of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, I managed to build my confidence up. I’m in a much better place now and I want to help other people as much as I can.I feel like no one really takes any notice of mental health, and people should. It’s something very serious.
This was a very horrible experience and I just wanted it to go away. Now I realise it’s helped me to learn and to meet new people. I feel like I’m a stronger and better person now.
Jenna, 29, Arts Administrator
When I was at university, I was formally diagnosed with depression.
I had that classic thing where I couldn’t get out of bed. There’s no reason for it, but it just feels like there’s a weight on your chest, and you can’t leave.
I’m quite a straight-talking northerner, so people think I’m quite tough. But when you’re suddenly crying in the middle of the street for no reason, people just think you’re a bit of an idiot. I find it really difficult to speak to people who’ve never experienced it. A lot of people can be really dismissive. It doesn’t go away. If you’ve not experienced it, you don’t understand what it’s like.
Daniela, 22, Bartender/Freelance Illustrator
I’m from Mexico City and I’ve been living in the UK for the last four years. Some of my family members suffer from mental health issues. I’m not sure if it’s genetic, but I think you pick up behaviours from when you are very young.
When I was 17, I was sent to get an exorcism. I was tricked into thinking it was going to be a confession. The priest covered me in sweet-smelling oils and said, “cover your eyes”. He came up behind me and started choking me with his medallion. It physically hurt me.
I felt angry with myself for letting it happen, and I was really angry at religion, especially Catholicism. For a long time, I was furious, but it does me a great disservice to still be angry about it. You realise that people who hurt in the name of God are a minority.
You also have to look at it with humour. You have to say, “Well that didn’t work! Either I must be really good friends with the devil, or this guy is talking shit!” It made me take the initiative to look after myself, and that’s when I decided to leave. It was really hard coming here but now I feel like it’s my home.
Fatima, 27, Finance Assistant
I was always quite shy but, as I got older, it became something worse. It became social anxiety and, around 17, I developed depression. When you’re very anxious it’s very easy to become depressed. That’s kind of how it happened.
The anxiety is like a constant sense of dread. You just wake up and feel like something bad is going to happen. That feeling never really goes away, it’s always there under the surface of everything. Depression is just a sense of hopelessness; it’s the inability to construct a future for yourself.
When I was at both school and university, I’d never heard about mental health, no one spoke about it. I feel that, if I had been aware at an earlier age, I would have got help earlier. It’s kind of my duty to speak up and make people feel they’re not alone, to get rid of the stigma.
I’m coming to accept that I might live with this for the rest of my life. It feels horrible but, when you accept it, it becomes a bit easier to deal with.
Desmond, 24, Trainee Teacher
I’m originally from Zimbabwe but I live in Enfield now. I’ve been in the UK for 11 years.
My depression kicked in when I started going through puberty. Because I was an immigrant, I felt that people always looked at me like a charity case. It made me feel properly rubbish. You feel like you’re not the same as everyone else, like you’re below everyone. For a while I hated the fact that I was from Africa.
In my experience African parents always tell you to toughen up. Depression is seen as you being ungrateful. I grew up in a culture where men are not supposed to show their weaknesses, or emotion. They are supposed to be the pillar of the family. I felt alone; I just bottled it up. Depression is terrible. You just feel trapped, like there’s no way out of it. After a while, my family’s attitude to mental health changed. I can talk to my mum now and we’ve been there for each other. Now, I’m in a good space.