A former city worker who lost his father to suicide has set up a new group to help others affected by depression. Parish councillor John Nicholson, 47, has set up meetings at the United Church in Mortimer Street to raise awareness, and hopes to break down the stigma attached with the condition. The father-of-three from Herne was himself diagnosed with clinical depression 12 years ago, and lost his own father in 1986. He said:
“Depression is a killer and I know from bitter experience how this can affect families, friends and employment. I was fine until about last year. Things got on top of me and I was in a dark place. There were times when I would be with friends and break down and become an emotional wreck. My friends and family bore the heavy burden. My father committed suicide when I was 18. It was a real shock to me and I’ve never really recovered from it. I was brought up as a Sunderland football supporter and we would go everywhere together. He broke up with my mother and moved back up north. He had trouble with alcoholism, and must have been in a very, very dark place. But I couldn’t do that to my own children. They have really supported me.”
Mr Nicholson said the high-profile deaths of stars like Heath Ledger and Robin Williams, as well as the recent troubles of campaigner and footballer Clarke Carlisle, have put mental health in the spotlight. He said:
“More people suffer than you realise. It’s an internal illness which you cannot see on the outside of people. Perhaps it’s only visible in people’s mood swings. So when you get people coming out in the open and admitting they have a problem, it helps remove the stigma.”
Mr Nicholson, who is unemployed and training to become a driving instructor, was inspired to set up a self-help group before Christmas last year. He said five people came to the first session in the quiet room of the church in January. He said:
“Depression has always been something that carries a certain negative stigma, but I want to change that. You don’t have to suffer on your own. People can come down and talk to other people. We are not professionals. We know what it’s like and understand how it feels and may be able to share ways to cope. I want to have friends and family involved in this self-help group as well. It can help us all understand and help each other. It is my hope that at our next meeting we will see more people joining us for tea, coffee and a chat. If you know someone who suffers or you suffer, please do come along.”
The next session will be held at the United Church on Saturday, May 16, from 12.30pm to 2pm.
Herne Bay Gazette, March 19th 2015