“I’ve spoken about my experience with depression, anxiety and suicide attempts in the past and I’ve had nothing but positivity from sharing my story. Those who have had a family member or friend pass by suicide or people thinking about it in their dark days have said it helped to work through the darkness, to know they’re not alone.

My breakdown was quite unique because it was years of mental fragility completely ground down after I had my daughter in post natal depression. It was from there the floodgates opened and almost drowned me. It was a very tough two years for us, but things are in a good place now and I’ve stabilised on medication and I attend a psychologist weekly.

My diagnosis with a personality disorder was very important for me and my husband. The constant depressive episodes and manic highs and lows were taking a toll on us and having a new baby I just couldn’t cope. In a way it’s good I broke down because spending that time as an inpatient meant the mental health team were able to study me properly and give me the right diagnosis and treatment plan.

I’ve had intensive psychology, medication (7 a day), I’ve a community mental health nurse and I keep the conversation going with my husband. Before I’d felt that I’d be burdening him if I told him I wasn’t feeling great. I know now nothing is too small to share. I need to keep on top of this illness.

There are some things I do to maintain my mental health on a daily basis. I wake up grateful, for the fact that I’m awake and alive with a roof over my head. I look at my husband and feel blessed and then I walk into my daughter’s room and I’m met with the sound of her breathing. I know I’m lucky and blessed in life. That and challenging my mind with writing, which I do a lot of these days.

I think the stigma around depression and mental illness has changed massively over the last decade, but there’s still a long way to go. When I first entered the mental health service as a teenager it was a shame to my family. It wasn’t talked about and many people thought you just needed a kick up the arse and go for a walk to be healed. Thankfully now it’s taken a lot more seriously and dealt with a lot more compassion and care.

Well-known faces opening up about their own struggles has absolutely helped to dispel the stereotypes around mental health. Gareth O’Callaghan was first to talk out back in 2001/2003. He encouraged me to talk too. I think the stigma back then was too strong because people really weren’t ready to listen.

When Bressie spoke out people stopped and listened and I don’t know if it’s because he made it more acceptable or it was just the time, but I thank the universe he shared when he did. Eoghan McDermott and Al Porter have kept the conversation going and Conor Cusack who to my knowledge was one of the very first to talk.

I’ve been involved in Walk In My Shoes and a pop-up radio station for St Pat’s as well as a protest outside the Dail in April. Of course I think the government needs to make the changes to improve mental health services? It just needs a decent budget. Give back what they took away.

Community crisis teams are essential to disadvantaged areas, education in schools and workshops and child /teen friendly mental health wards. Of course they can change it they just need to start picking the tax off the ones who can afford it and add it to resources. And I hope it happens in my lifetime.”

Nikki Hayes – Spin 1038 radio presenter
This article first appeared in the February edition of Magpie Magazine.