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Why we need to talk about mental health

When I set up 50 Challenges, I had to make a decision as to whether or not to talk about my own mental health issues. In the end, I decided that they were fundamental to the inspiration behind 50 Challenges and I couldn't tell the story without being open about them. I am so glad I did; in being open, I have encouraged other people to talk to me about their issues. If 50 Challenges achieves nothing else, I will consider it to be a success for this reason alone.

Mental health issues, as we know, know no barriers. They are also often impossible to spot. So I was flabbergasted by the two people who have approached me in recent weeks to ask for my advice, as someone who has talked openly about their own depression. They're people who seem positive, have apparently great lives with wonderful families and partners.

That's the thing about mental health issues. They can affect anyone at any time. And there is no logic behind them. 'Having it all' doesn't preclude you from being struck by negativity, lethargy, despair, anxiety or bleakness.

In fact, for those who - on the surface - appear to have it all, it can be hardest to acknowledge the blackness. After all, if you have a life most would envy, it can seem very churlish to voice, even to yourself: 'But I am far from happy.' I am not sure how much I have been able to help; what I do know about mental health issues is that they are all unique and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

But in talking about my depression, I have enabled these friends to find a voice for their own feelings, to reach out for the first time and to begin to find their own answers. I am honoured that they felt able to confide in me. And I know now that talking openly about surviving depression was definitely the right thing to do.

One of the worst things about depression and anxiety is the sense of isolation. Talking about your own experiences is an incredibly brave thing to do - I know how vulnerable and naked it can make you feel. But if everyone who has suffered were to talk openly, we might all provide a vehicle for one or two of our friends to begin their recovery. And how powerful would that be?

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