Vanessa Phillips was known as a strong person, always willing to help others. When she had a breakdown, her friends didn’t know she was the one who needed help.
“My breakdown was triggered by my mother’s death. I was a 41-year-old divorced single parent of two children and I had no support. The council was trying to evict me from my home.
“I was eating hardly anything and I wasn’t sleeping. I was shaking and suffering huge anxiety, but I didn’t know I was ill. I thought I just had too much on my plate. I now feel that if people had been there for me, if people had listened to me, I might not have become so ill.
“Everyone knew me as a very strong person who helped others with their problems, so when I was saying, ‘I’m not coping, I need help’, people didn’t pay any attention. I began spending a lot of time in bed under my duvet. I went to my doctor, who gave me antidepressant pills. I knew nothing about depression and he didn’t tell me anything.
“A friend came round to see if I was all right one Friday morning. She didn’t know I’d already decided to kill myself. She found me sitting in bed ranting and raving. She saw an empty pill bottle and a half-empty bottle of whisky and she phoned my doctor, who called an ambulance.
“I was kept in hospital for two weeks and sent home with more pills, but still no more information about depression. I started going to the library and reading books on mental health, and saw how diet, lifestyle, healthy eating and vitamins were involved.
“Slowly, I began to recover. I had a lot of help from a lovely mental health nurse who took a real interest in me. She used my love of plants to deal with my social exclusion by driving me in her car to the garden centre for a walk and a cup of coffee. Having someone else caring about me was the catalyst that helped me sort out things I couldn’t cope with.
“It took me a long time, but I got back on my feet. It would have been faster if I’d had more support and more information. I now run a depression awareness group so that other people don’t have to go through what happened to me.”