Shared mission with Gaga and princes gave me feel good factor
Prince Harry has spoken movingly of his mental torment over the death of his mother Princess Diana and Prince William has shared FaceTime with Lady Gaga about her mental health struggles.
How we feel about ourselves and our lives has never had such a high profile.
Radio presenter Robbie Dee knows exactly how dark the struggles can be and how difficult it is for some to come to terms with it.
“I loved the thing with Prince William and Lady Gaga saying let’s open up and talk about it,” he said.
The CFM breakfast DJ revealed his struggle with depression last year and says the key is for people to realise they do not feel well and to do something about it.
He explained: “I always said ‘I’m feeling like this, but there is someone over there who is suffering from cancer and someone over there whose child has leukaemia’ and I was saying to myself to get a grip and stop feeling sorry for myself.
“It is a hidden disease. when you break your leg there is a plaster cast, if you graze your face, you put a plaster on it, but this is hidden away and it is not easy to talk about.
“I’m very proud that I have talked about it.
“I’ve had a woman in the supermarket throw her arms around me and give me a big cuddle, people have said they feel the same way, people have said they have family members who have had it.
“Since I opened up and talked about it, I have never felt so good.
“It is not a smarmy cliche, but people are the best medicine and the best thing for me is my wife and children and exercise and the great reaction I have had from my listeners and other people.”
Aleasha Wallace struggled with anxiety and depression for years, without realising.
Her parents divorced when she was just 10 and the event affected her badly.
A former singer in hotels abroad and on cruise ships, everyone thought that because she was a performer, she was a naturally happy and outgoing person.
Now 29, she only turned to therapy last year in the wake of the break-up of a long term relationship.
She explained: “It started a whole host of problems with me.
“Everything got on top of me.
“I wanted everything to be perfect and I was a very negative person.
“I felt I was different to everyone else, we were not normal like the other families.
“For 20 years afterwards, I spent my time controlling life around me so I could have that happiness.
“But perfection isn’t all that it seems.
“It was not until this time last year when I came out of the relationship that I realised I needed to change and go back to the drawing board.
“I have stayed friends with my ex and he suggested that I should try therapy.”
“I went into therapy and came out realising that I’d been suffering from anxiety and depression.
“After that it was just me taking a step back and thinking ‘ok. I have to look at the problems I have’.
“I was over-thinking things and worried that they would go wrong and that became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“I worked abroad and on cruise ships and I was outwardly confident without being so on the inside.
“The relationship was something I really cared about. I really did hit rock bottom. ”
While the issue of mental health is being discussed more openly and positively on a national level, attitudes towards mental health need to change in Cumbria.
The county has a significantly higher rate of suicide than the rest of England and many in the region need to learn there should be no stigma and no shame in discussing mental health.
Caroline Robinson is community engagement officer for Carlisle and Eden Mind.
She said: “We lose one Cumbrian a week , which is scary and above the national average.
“It is not just about what other people may think of you, but what you think about yourself.
“In her talk with Prince William, Lady Gaga says she felt there was something wrong with herself.
“But there is a huge range of people who suffer mental illness.
“On a wide spectrum, many people suffer, but because of our attitudes, we put up with it, we go to work and say we are fine.”
Cumbria has a particular problem with mental health because of its rural geography.
“We struggle to access services here. If you are near a city, you are all right. if not, you struggle.
“We also have a high population of farmers and the like who just get on with things.
“They have the attitude that if there is something wrong, you just work through it and that does not work for everyone.”
The facts are stark.
Hospital admission for self-harm in those aged 10-24 years in 2013/14 was almost 15% higher in Cumbria than the rest of England.
Attendances at A&E for a psychiatric disorder are 45% higher in Cumbria compared to England.
Excess death in those under 75 with serious mental illness is almost 30% higher than the English average.
Miss Robinson is also co-ordinator for the Cumbria Time to Change hub – a new partnership of local organisations and mental health champions working to improve attitudes and behaviour towards people experiencing mental health problems.
She urged anyone who isn’t feeling well to talk to their doctor – or to contact Mindline Cumbria.
She praised both princes for raising the issue and championing the Heads Together #oktosay campaign.
“It is hard enough for Joe Bloggs to talk about mental health, let alone someone (like Prince Harry) telling the world,” she said.
“It is brave, but it should be normal to talk about it.”
Aleasha says she did not realise that therapy was available to her and urged others who may be suffering from anxiety to look for help.
“I’m able to connect with people who have similar problems and I can say, ‘this is my experience’.
“It is great to help people because you can feel like you are the only person going through it.”
Since seeking therapy, Aleasha has turned her life around and started her up her own exercise business.
And she says that some of the people who come along to her classes suffer from similar issues she had and she is able to help them.
Aleasha is now staging a special clubbercise session to raise fund for Eden and Carlisle Mind.
The event takes place at The ands Centre, Carlisle, on April 30.
The trigger for Robbie Dee to seek help was when he realised how seriously he was thinking about suicide.
“Someone who sees that as the only way out is a shame because life is precious and you have to look after it.
“The worst thing would be if you feel like that and people say ‘pull yourself together’ or they say ‘well just get on with it, if that is what you want’.
“I was happy 96 per cent of the time, but that other four per cent I was rubbish and not liking myself at all.
“People think you are oozing confidence and even a little full of yourself, but deep down, you are feeling pretty rubbish.
“Those dark days were becoming more and more frequent and the happy days were becoming less.
“I would say to anyone feeling like that to speak to someone about it – go to your GP which is what I did.
“If you can get it out, you will feel so much better.”
* For any help or advice, go to www.mindlinecumbria.org or call 0300 561 0000
To take part in Aleasha’s fundraising clubbercise go to the clubbercise Carlisle with Aleasha Facebook page.