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World mental health day is about tackling stigmas
Mary Newsome, who works with NHS England’s Public Voice Team, tells her own intensely personal and moving story of coping with depression:
When I first started working at Quarry House in Leeds in 1998 for the Department of Health, if you had asked me if I had ever experienced a mental health problem, I would have said no.
In my mind then I believed this to be true. As I sit here in 2013, in the same building, now working for NHS England, I know better and I am not afraid to admit that I have suffered from depression and Postnatal Depression.
I am aware that in writing this and allowing it to be published that it may affect some people’s perception of me and attitude towards me. However, that is more a reflection of who they are and not what I am. Depression does not define me as a person; it is not the sum total of who I am.
For most people, myself included, depression is an occasional visitor that needs to be shown the door by whatever coping mechanisms and support tools I have at my disposal. That might be as simple as going for a walk, talking to a friend, taking some time out; or if it persists getting some support from my GP. The key to recovery is recognising the problem, not being afraid to ask for help and being able to access that help.
My first real brush with depression was when I developed Postnatal Depression after the birth of my first child, it went undiagnosed and I had never heard of it.
We moved to a new area when he was four months old and my new health visitor said that my previous health visitor had sent a glowing report about me as a first time mum. She had no worries about me.
So that was it, I felt unable to open up about how I felt and so I continued to hide it. Low level depression continued to creep in and out of my life for years, and I was finally diagnosed with it after the death of my father in 2009.
When I lost my job in 2010 I was invited to help set up a charity for women with Postnatal Depression and it was only then that I finally realised that this was what I had been suffering with in 1987 when my son was born. I could see that this condition and its aftermath had affected my life and all those around me for years.
That is why I am so determined to make information widely available for others: the sooner you recognise what the problem is, the sooner you can deal with it and the sooner you will recover. It’s a condition, like many others, that impacts on all the family, not just the sufferer.
I have moved on from the first charity I was involved in and now I am helping set up another charity for women and families affected by Postnatal Depression. Journeys of Hope is aimed at helping women and their families recognise the symptoms of Postnatal Depression, to know where to go for help and support, to know what support they should be getting and, importantly, to know that they will get better.
Doing this work, and working as part of the Patient & Public Voice & Information Team in NHS England makes me feel that I can make a difference to people’s lives. Helping to drive forward a new way of working that aims to ensure that everyone has greater control of their health and their wellbeing and being so engaged with the public and patient groups is an enjoyable challenge.
One of the most important aims of any charity or organisation that deals with a Mental Health issue is to tackle stigma so that people feel unafraid to seek the help and support they need. That for me is what World Mental Health Day is about.