The week I let ITV film my depression
Posted Thursday 3 May 2012
Steve is not my real name – I was given it by the production team filming me anonymously for a new mental health documentary – but I like to think of it as my ‘stage name’. Sounds a bit more glamorous than pseudonym.
I was speaking, emailing and even texting (as Steve) about my experiences of depression over a week in April, as part of a documentary called The trouble with men. Despite sounding like a spin-off section of Loose Women, the programme is actually about the difficulty that society has in dealing with men’s mental health. It’s being broadcast on ITV1 tonight at 7.30pm and I’d strongly recommend tuning in if you can. Perhaps in spite of my involvement in it rather than because of it!
I’ve always admired anyone who speaks out about their experiences of mental health problems. It strikes me as being an act of defiance: flying in the face of taboo and standing up to stigma. It’s very personal, quite political and most of all it’s very, very brave.
I signed up to being involved in The trouble with men largely because I’m none of the above. I’m a bit spineless, totally non-partisan, and shy away from the lime light like a self-conscious mole. But somehow I persuaded myself to take the leap of faith and stand up and speak out.
I’m so glad I did! Despite my initial apprehension, the support I received from both Mind and ITV meant that I came away feeling not only a bit proud of myself but also genuinely empowered for having risen to the challenge of speaking publicly about depression. I even felt I’d earned some of that bravery I could’ve done with before I signed up!
But there was a final twist in the tale when I got an update from ITV a couple of days ago. They’d had to cut me from the show. Outrageous! I was a bit disappointed, understandably, but quickly became intrigued when they told me why.
I’d done the interviews under my stage name ‘Steve’ because the production team was so pessimistic of getting any men to open up about mental health that they’d initially settled for talking to them anonymously. But since interviewing me, they’d travelled many miles throughout the country doing many hours of filming with men from different backgrounds. And you know what? To a man, every single one of the people they spoke to said ‘yes, this is me. I’m a man, I have a mental health problem and I’m happy to look straight into the camera and say it.’
So Steve didn’t get his 15 minutes of fame. Bad luck Steve. But something much more important happened. Men showed that they can defy the stereotypes and stand up and speak out about mental health. And in doing so urge others to be more aware of theirs, and reach out for support. I learned that the power of sharing your story is in its ability to touch the lives of others. Maybe to even save the lives of others. And to be a tiny part of that process has been amazing and something I’ll never forget.
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