Depression, Suicide and the Power of Hope | Gill Hayes | TEDxExeter

Translator: Lena Clemente
Reviewer: Denise RQ The TEDx team warned me
that when I was announced as a speaker, some of you would google me. If that was you, you’ll have discovered
I keep a very low profile, so by way of introduction,
I asked a few friends to offer a few words
as to the kind of person I am. “Jill is the kind of person
who lives life to the full, who believes anything’s possible,
who laughs from the belly.” No one said, ” the kind that suffer
from depression,” no one said, “the kind
to attempt suicide,” and yet, in the early hours
of March 13, 2013, I got out of bed, left my sleeping family, drove to a nearby bridge and jumped. I don’t remember the fall or the impact;
I remember being found, I remember a neck brace being fitted
and been put into the ambulance. As I was been taken to a hospital, two policemen would knock at my door
and break the news to my husband. From there, the news would spread
causing shock and disbelief. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t
in great physical shape; many of the bones on the right side
of my body were broken: my lung had collapsed,
my pelvis shattered; neither was I in great mental shape. Thinking I’d already hit rock bottom, I now contemplated a life
as a social pariah confined to a wheelchair
with limited access to my kids. So how on earth had I reached this point? It’s difficult to say
when my story begins – roots into depression are complex – but let’s start
with the loss of my father. His death had prompted
a major reevaluation of life. It was time to make some big changes, so together with my family,
we decided to up stakes and move to Devon. We didn’t know a soul here,
but we believed we’d find a better quality of life;
we’d live the dream. There were a few setbacks in our new life,
but nothing we thought we couldn’t handle. However, a year into
our time here in Exeter, I realized that things
weren’t quite right. I started waking early; things I previously enjoyed,
I didn’t want to do; I was becoming withdrawn,
social occasions were a real effort, my concentration levels were flagging,
my thinking was becoming muddled, making simple decisions
became really difficult. What was going on? A little time on the Internet suggested
I was suffering from depression. Depression? Me? How embarrassing. What did I have to be depressed about? I thought about confiding in friends,
but they had real problems: a seriously-ill child,
a dying friend, financial problems; I’d come to Devon to live the dream – whining to them that I was
feeling a bit depressed? “Really? Pull yourself together.” I thought about going to see my GP, but I’d met a doctor
at my practice socially; I didn’t want her finding out
my shameful secret so I contacted
the local depression service. They suggested a course
of cognitive behavioral therapy, and as time progressed,
my depression lifted. I could laugh and enjoy things, I could concentrate
and engage with people. It was such an enormous relief. I decided to make up for time; it was time to come back
and suck the juice out of life again, I was never going back to that dark place. With gusto I threw myself
into every aspect of my life. Few months later, I remember
feeling a little under the weather. I just thought
I was coming down with something but no, the depression returned. This time, the descent
was much more rapid, and it hit me much, much harder. I couldn’t do the simplest of things: a trip to the supermarket
was overwhelming. I stopped taking my post, my emails,
I had no appetite. I tried to keep up appearances,
but it was hard work so I started to avoid people. I just seemed to shut down. My concerned husband made me see a doctor. I was given a questionnaire
to gauge the severity of my depression. My answers confirmed
that it was indeed severe, but I lied on the last two questions,
the ones about suicide. How could I confess to feeling suicidal? What if they take away my children? The doctor prescribed antidepressants; said they might make me feel worse
before I felt better. Worse? Worse than this?
I wasn’t taking them. And taking them will be proof
of my failure to sort myself out. I noticed the way I was behaving
was starting to impact on my children; unable to focus or function properly I couldn’t give them
the usual levels of attentional support. My mind corroded by depression, I started to believe that this thing
that was destroying me would take my family down too. I would not let that happen. Each morning, I’d wake at 1 a.m., I’d lie there for hours
telling myself how pathetic I was, what a coward I was for still being here,
a burden to my family; I would be disgusted with myself
by sunrise, for still existing. This had to stop. Of course I knew my family would be upset,
but through this depressive lens, I believed that they’d be
better off without me. My husband is an amazing father, he would do an excellent job
in raising our children. We had a holiday planned, they’d have time to bury me, grieve,
take a holiday to get over it and come back to start
a better life without me. Surely proof the depression
does terrible things to your mind. The day before my suicide attempt,
after dropping the kids at school, I pulled over on the side of the road,
I just sat in the car feeling numb. I remember watching the buses. What if I just stepped out
in front of one? But that wouldn’t be fair on the driver.
And what if it didn’t work? I just maimed myself
that wouldn’t help anyone. I then drove to a bridge
where I sat in the car for hours. At one point I wrote a suicide note
and then ripped it up in shame. As I drove off,
I remember the diary in my bag that revealed my struggle
with these awful thoughts; that would be too painful
for someone to read after I’d gone. I stopped the car and destroyed it. I picked my daughter up from school
and took her to a swimming lesson. She just moved class so I was surprised
to see familiar faces. I knew I look dreadful, pale,
greasy-haired, exhausted, I was far from the bubbly,
chatty person they knew, but I was beyond faking it. That night, I went to bed,
and as usual, wake at 1:00 a.m., “This time no backing out.
You have to do this! Don’t stop, don’t think,
don’t kiss them goodbye!” So that’s how I came to be lying on the road
that cold March morning – a physical, mental, emotional wreck. As I lay there in my hospital bed
fearing the worst, something very beautiful happened: a big tidal wave of love and kindness
from friends, family, and community arrived to carry me through
this dark chapter. This was shown in all sorts of ways,
but what stood out were the many compassionate messages
from people telling me of their own struggles with mental health. These were people I thought I knew,
sharing sides I never knew existed. I had no idea the scale
of this problem in our society. In my mountain of hospital post
I received a gift, from George, a schoolfriend of my son. This beautiful, hand-knitted bookmark
had a single word stitched onto it; that word was ‘hope.’ This 10-year-old boy
had summed up in one word what I so badly needed at that time. Hope is in short supply
when you’re depressed; severe depression is a place
of complete, total, and utter despair. I needed to understand
I’ve been extremely ill, and I needed hope
that I could and would recover My physical recovery was long and painful;
had a clear structure to it. There were milestones along the way
showing encouraging signs of progress. My route back from depression
would be less clear. With time, the medication
seemed to kick in, my emotions returned, I was able to cry, and what felt like a very long time, I started to re-engage,
to function properly. I just felt like my normal self. I was put on a waiting list
for psychotherapy, but waiting lists are long
even for bridge jumpers. It would be two and a half years
from my suicide attempt before I started therapy on the NHS. It became clear to me that building
on my science of recovery was going to be down to me so I started to research depression to understand this cruel illness,
to understand my own triggers and my own toxic mix of circumstances
that had led me there. This helped enormously, not just in my initial recovery but still today, in my efforts
to stay well and thrive. I’m all too aware that my story
could have had a very different ending. My family could have had to go through what an average 17 families,
a day, in the UK, experience: utter devastation,
so many unanswered questions endless what-ifs. Suicide rates in the UK
are shockingly high. It’s a huge yet so often overlooked
and misunderstood problem in our society. It’s the number one cause of death amongst all young people
age 20 to 34,and men under 50. These deaths are preventable. I look back at my own story and wonder
what would have made a difference. In my recovery, the difference between my physical
and mental health care was stark. Despite government promises of extra cash, mental health services have struggled
with years of underfunding and are struggling to meet demand. To put physical and mental health care
on an equal footing will require a major change
to our health system. However, there are changes
that we can all make at a grassroots level that can have a media impact
and don’t cost a penny. That starts with increased understanding: depression is not a weakness
nor a character flaw it’s a debilitating illness that affects
how we think, feel, and function. When depression becomes severe,
suicidal thoughts are common. These thoughts can progress
to plans and then to actions. If we learn to recognize
signs of depression both in ourselves and others, early intervention can prevent the illness from ever escalating
to the point of suicide. Many of us are quick to judge things
we don’t understand. I hear suicide described
as selfish, cowardly; I believe that’s us
looking at the situation through the prism of a healthy mind. Usual rules don’t apply
when you’re in the depths of depression, it warps your thinking. If we understand that, we’re in a much better place
to support people in these situations. Secondly, we can challenge stigma. Even today, well-meaning friends
refer to this chapter of my life as ‘my accident.’ “Tell it as it is,” I tell them, “or else, we’re all complicit
in feeding the stigma.” Misconception and stigma smother hope. They compound
the cruel elements of the illness: isolation, shame, self-loathing, and prevent people
from reaching out for help. Surely, we can all play a role
in creating a society where people suffering
the torment of depression can reach out and talk openly
without fear of recrimination or stigma. Thirdly, we need to grasp the nettle when it comes to talking
about difficult issues. When I came out of hospital, I sat down with each of my children
to explain what had happened. I remember thinking at the time, “This is a conversation no mother
should be having with her child.” But as times gone on, and I’ve come to understand
the extent of the problem, I think we should all be having
conversations with our young ones about mental health. I thought when it came time
for my own kids to fly the nest, it would be death from alcohol,
drugs, or a road accident that were on my list of worries. Statistically, suicide trumps them all. If someone you know
is showing signs of depression, ask them how they’re feeling,
give them permission to talk about it, remind them there are places to go
to get help – Samaritans, Crisis Line; don’t bury it thinking
it couldn’t happen to us because it can. Some of us will have
our own stories to share. I do realize it’s not easy –
I chosen to hide my own depression – but jumping off a bridge
slightly blew my cover. Sharing our stories is so important; it sends a message to others
that they’re not alone that we all struggle
to cope from time to time and that it is possible
to find a way through this. Like me, you might be surprised to find out how much compassion
and understanding is out there. Once we start the conversation. When I was at my lowest ebb
in the depths of despair, George’s bookmark and his message of hope
was really powerful. Together, through increased understanding by challenging stigma and just by talking, we can all provide hope,
we can all be part of the solution. Thank you. (Applause)


  1. People who call suicide cases "selfish" and "cowardly" can't even give the person a break when they're dead. The people who said this about my friend were the ones who bullied her when she was alive. Give it a rest.

  2. Anybody remember this song (from the 70's). "it's nature's way of telling you -something's wrong". That is what depression is. It's the soul's way of telling you that you're not in line with the best interests of your soul.

  3. I've dealt with a whole boatload of anxiety and depression. I know alot of people ar'nt going to like this but for me -FAITH is what finally put me on a stable playing field. Yes-when I get stressed out I can start with suicidal ideation but I always come back to FAITH and …… recognizing that I have a fatalistic streak born of wherever. I've found that I just have to keep enduring . Yesterday is history and tommorrow is a mystery. None of which is guaranteed to anyone. ONE DAY AT A TIME>

  4. I've been depressed since I was a child, it's something that runs in my family but my parents never thought much of it. I was 8 when I first stood on the roof of my house and contemplated jumping. I was 13 when I made my first attempt and tried to OD on my dad's old meds. I didn't get help. I dealt with it as I got older, off and on with antidepressants. I am now 23, and have been out of work for a year now because I've reached just a severe and debilitating level of depression. I have had 3 suicide attempts in the past year alone. My mom called me today and told me she made an appointment to get a psychiatric assessment done on me and I will most likely be in a facility in a few days. I had been planning another attempt and with this call I cried with relief that someone finally took notice and cared enough to stop me. Please, pay attention and talk to your loved ones as soon as you notice they're not doing well. If she had waited a few more days to confront me, it might have been too late.

  5. I haven’t ever outright stated it before but I really want this to be over with. By ‘this’ I mean depression, anxiety, panic attacks, self loathing, hopeless, worthlessness, loneliness. It would be so nice to fall asleep and never wake up. I just want this to end.

  6. I am not read neither your feet that took you to the bridge that I am not understanding greater that is not a sound of your not going to know the difference you are still here

  7. Behavior triggers I have no armor now when you went to school did you learn about these things that wasn't in school you are stronger then you can understand somebody always understands that I don't do sounds head knees and toes and forget I don't have a crown on my head I said thank you need to change on my ankles that I forgot I don't work on the mile let love not start

  8. Watching this video was like watching myself telling everyone I know about my own struggle with depression, except for the details. She says so much that I have never had the mental clarity to say.. Very good talk. Definitely going to share it.

  9. Thank you for speeking up that shows great courage. Even now I am concerned about writing this. I just wanted to say thank you for the encouragement that I can get past this.

  10. I tried to kill myself and I really felt it was going to be my last time I took the pills but I threw them up no one ever noticed I still have and I am still scared of what goes on in my mind

  11. Thank you for being so honest and open. This is a struggle many people fight in silence. Mental health services are never funded as it should be. l admire your strength.🍀🌹🍀🌹🍀🌹🍀🌹🍀🌹🍀🌹🍀🌹🍀🌹🍀🌹

  12. When my big sister died I lost myself, I automatically became an introvert. A few years ago my younger brother got murdered. and I couldn't cry anymore. I've forgotten how. I'm so broken, I smile every day but I'm not happy, I hide my love my pain my emotions. I feel empty no one understands me, I don't know what to do, for the first time in years today I cried, I cried so hard.
    Somehow I feel a weight has been lifted off me.

  13. I've had more of my life in depression than not. Spent some time in hospital. Spent several years really happy but it always returns. Now I'm just patiently waiting for the end xx

  14. Ask yourself, actually what have I got to be depressed about? When you find the answers, make a positive effort to change things.

  15. I don't understand these people who contemplate/commit suicide when they have children. I would rather be in a mental hospital for months until I was better rather than put a child through suicide.

  16. I have no help. CMHA told me over the phone "we can't help you" then hung up. I want to die but my two cats who love and need me so much keep me going.

  17. Thank you so much for this. This makes me feel not so alone in my depression. This reminds me a lot of myself and my thought process as well..

  18. I have no words just eyes filled with tears my best days are amazing my worst days are very bad I'm strong and I'll go through my bad days hoping to get back to my amazing days no one knows my pain just me.

  19. I was with her until she said that about the tidal wave of love. My attempts have always resulted in scorn and guilt-tripping

  20. Depression is an epidemic here in the States as well. I think we should introduce meditation to our children at an early age. Thanks for being so brave and sharing your story! You probably have no idea how many people you are helping by doing so.

  21. You would've gotten a 300k bill for that stunt here in the wonderful USA. And of course no follow up support system. But, ya know….Murica. Trump!!!! Kill me please.

  22. I’m usually pretty upbeat and hard to get down, but when I go down, I go down hard. I have to actively fight my own brain from filling my head with irrational negative thoughts.

  23. i am dealing with it from 8 grade and i am in college and attempted suicide 3 times I am 18 and 3 rd one is recent and mind when you say that you are not alone i am alone living on pills being a laughable content for the public there will be no one to help you-you are lucky that someone was there !!!

    and if you gonna ask how am i then don't unless you mean it

  24. i want someone to understand, but how do you explain your depression. the feeling. there’s no possible way to explain it all.

  25. Talking about it and asking for help to family and health care providers, over the past 5 years, didn't change anything nor helped. Went to emergency hospital more than once for being suicidal to get help. Admitted and locked up in psychiatry, can't go out, no therapy (inside). Got reffered as an urgency to mental health, it took over a year and a half to hear anything back then took months to see and follow someone, I ended up with an occupational therapist because they didnt have anyone else. No "real therapy" except that I need to have hobbies and do them. Hopeless with dealing with all my health issues and not getting help or support, I attempted suicide twice. Always being judged by love ones about everything I do , say or feel is even more devastating. Barely fonctionning at the age of 22. I force myself everyday for everything little thing I do. Research for tools and any info out there to help, read books, worksheets and the list goes on…
    Having no insurance, no money except sometimes for food. I can't even afford therapy. I live in Canada (in a city) and yes health care is thecnically "free" but it dosent really cover much of anything, there's no help to reach.
    When people say get help and talk about I have been for years and such luck.

  26. The last time I was admitted to hospital the so called psychiaritrist said there's nothing they can do, so I got release again.

  27. Ive been living on the power of hope for way too long. It keeps you alive, but its nothing but a delusion.

  28. i hate how people keep talking like everything is fine and make me feel like im a freak for not having an amazing day or week or life , instagram fake image of success and happiness i hate it

  29. I can’t believe I’m watching this on March 13th and that’s when she nearly tried to end everything… perhaps God does watch?

  30. This woman TRULY has lived and breathed depression. No truer words have ever been spoken about it either. It’s crazy. Thank you for your message.

  31. Every night, my dysthymia invites me to a Robin Williams necktie party. After recovering from the rage of taking the Red Pill, one needs to earn a good living, at least to feel as though one has purpose again. Passive income is vital, because we're not getting any younger and time is our only non-renewable resource. I am 60 years old, broke, and unemployable. I am starting over with a carry-on bag and a laptop. I'm not asking for a hand-out, just a hand-up to go in the right direction.
    I will turn to the Aaron Clarey retirement plan (e.g., Robin Williams necktie party) when I am out of options.

  32. I'm fully, really a 100% aware that this is probably just me. She's a great lady. But I'm surprised how I didn't find any insight in the talk. Anything different in it.

  33. So what do you do when you’re at the end of the rope but the only thing keeping you here is the one person who depends on you for everything. What if her father isn’t worth anything. What if she’s starting to exhibit the same anxious habits. What if you don’t know what the lesson of your suffering or journey is so you have no lesson to teach or advice to give. What if you’re so empty you can’t find anything to give. The food tastes bland.. it has for years; people say they’re jealous of the weight loss but they don’t realize I’m jealous they can eat and enjoy the food. I wake every morning no matter how tired I am like clock work. I pray to someone I’m not sure I even believe in anymore because I’m asking for a break or just a breath or praying that he’d take me so it will just be an accident..

  34. I didn't want to survive my suicide attempt in January 2019…. pray for me…. I want to finish what I started

  35. To many depression does not exist and suicide is just looking for attention, as quoted to me, if you wanted to die you would be dead so your just attention seeking.
    I don't agree with that but too many professional people do.

  36. I want to die. I think about it daily. I’m tired of living with emotion pain. I’m so glad that you have someone to talk to that cares. Whenever I try to talk to people about how I feel all they do is either talk about themselves or they just don’t care enough to listen. All my doctor does is put me on anti depressants. Anti depressants don’t just stop depression, they stop all my emotions. So then I’m just a passive, nonemotional thing. What’s the point. The only thing keeping me from killing myself is that I don’t want to put my family thru any sadness.

  37. Remarkable speaker, i was sent through a journey of darkness and discovered some light from within, beautiful words. Thank you for sharing your story.

  38. She described it perfectly. Thanks for your testimony. I’ve been in another episode myself and it always breaks my heart and relegates me to scared, child like feelings of hopelessness. So draining.

  39. When she said “why should I be depressed for what? When people have real problems”. I felt that 🙌🏾🙌🏾

  40. I feel cornered , by my own demons . Spent years of crying screaming for help, but nobody does. I’m realizing I’m not gonna make it out of this . I just need this pain to stop. It won’t stop until I stop breathing. Waiting for the day I’m capable of killing myself, and man am I close.

  41. I have been depressed few times. Never suicidal but I have experienced severe inability to function. Each time it took me few days to realise what was going on. My cure is to make my self extremely busy: new project, new business, redecoration, new course….anything that will require great effort and focus. Within maximum three weeks I am back to normal without medication or therapy but with a huge new task in front of me.

  42. Not all of us have a network of friends and family. I'm trans, and my conservative family wouldn't bat an eye if I killed myself. I have no friends at my job, I can't afford hobbies that get me out of the house, and I don't go anywhere frequently enough to know many people here. The only person who would genuinely miss me is my fiancee.

  43. Thank you for sharing your story. I have been suffering from depression for years since I was a teenager. I have suffered severe depression. On two occasions I was just contiplating it but was saved me was a phone call. A few months ago I actually went to act on it but again a phone call stopped me. Last night I was at that point and actually made the decision to go through with it. However that small glimpse of hope stopped me. I told myself reti just need someone to talk to that I can relate to who knows what I am going through.

  44. I reached out to friends and family and all I got back was that I am a drama queen, attention seeker, etc. Certainly not a tidal wave. But I haven't jumped off a bridge yet.

  45. Depression is almost always situational. Peeps just don't want to admit that, because they would need the courage to change their situation, either from within, ending toxic relationships, or their environment. Also, when we stop thinking of our petty problems and stop being the problems for countless innocent beings everyday, there is something called karma. God is love, not power from above, and love isn't biased. i can also attest to natural medicine such as Cannabis (anti depressants are also tested on animals!), yoga, exercise….. And, love, not dependency 💚 Poor babies…

  46. Caught in a cycle of feeling sad, trying to strengthen myself from it with anger, then getting sad because im shedding my true, loving persona, then anger, then sad, then angry…you get the rest.

  47. moved but still aching, thank you …. want to say MORE but I know how closely ' they" are watching…SO THANK YOU LADY YOU GAVE ME ONE MORE NIGHT :} q all the way

  48. I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on him 📖 Jesus said 👟❤️📖📖📖✝️💯🙂 taste and see that the lord is good !!!!!!!!

  49. My severe depression is a result of my miserable reality. Autistic in a terrible marriage with total inability to make friends. Struggled so much to keep head above water all my life. At this point do not see any reason to keep on suffering. At 50 years old I know for a fact it is hopeless. So beaten down by life, time to go…

  50. “Hope is in short supply when you’re depressed” Or even in my case of feeling sad and wrestling with grief as well…💔🥀😢 Lately I haven’t felt like even being here anymore, missing loved ones who’ve passed on including my dad. I’m feeling like what’s the point, Why God, what is my purpose of being? Nevertheless really great Ted Talk…

  51. I’m 28 and got married at 25 – one month after my wedding I got depression, and haven’t been able to get out till this day… I tried to end my life taking sleeping pills with alcohol… I don’t sleep without pills, I’m so embarrassed at myself that I want to end it… I never imagined I would live like this, my condition was getting worse I went for therapy and I have been diagnosed with DID BORDERLINE… things JSUT kept getting worse and worse and now all I think of is ending this miserable life… so I YouTube sucidal preventions and talks .

  52. Its so aggravativing when you dont have the comfort of painless way. Im in a hole ill never get out of. Havent felt joy in years. Dont remember what it feels like.

  53. I just wanna change myself but I truly hate my job but since it's quite well-paid I just put up with it. this job kinda kills me from the inside. I'm thinking about seeking help from a therapist all the time because when I reach out fo someone, they either have worse problems or they don't understand what I am talking about. But can they really help me??? or Am I gonna waste my time?? I feel so stuck. I just want someone to be my friend and be there for me but I'm always alone because I often isolate myself from the crowd. My depression is caused by myself. I don't even think I deserve help from anyone.

  54. By the way… Never feel ashamed for going through depression and suicidal thoughts … It is not something you can control. Life is not a gift, it's a curse and today with all the economical and social tensions, more than ever…

  55. When someone asks me 'How are you?' it's the usual auto reply. I am good. But I am not good. My heart is breaking a hundred pieces as I am suffering, having so much on my plate as my husband does not acknowledge my struggles and dismisses them. I have severe insomnia, I run a family, I run the house, I work part time, I look after the groceries, the finance. And, my youngest is going through a major depression, which anti depressants aren't helping. Psychiatrist on NHS then added a drowsy AD as he said he finds it hard to sleep. He is a very high achiever and was looking forward to getting the good grades needed for medical school. Whilst in year 13, preparing for the extremely punishing medical entrance exams he felt unusual and asked to see a psychiatrist. My son has been suffering for almost 2 years with intense very vivid dreams and racing thoughts and has been off school, putting his studies on hold and I am sure he is very worried about his future, as he tells me he feels stuck. I have taken him to 3 private psychiatrists in Harley Street London and many CBT counseling and hypnotherapy, sessions , to no avail. The psychiatrists all came up with different diagnosis, which is surreal. I am very very worried for my son. He has just turned 19 and suffers everyday with intense dreams , therefore very bad sleep, music playing in his head, very foggy mind,numbness and feels detached from the world. Not to mention sleeping almost the day away because of the 2 ADs. The mental health care in the UK is almost non existent. I have no access to the psychiatrist and no follow up. I tried calling them and ended up holding for more than an hour and gave up. I think my son has depersonalisation disorder but the GP and psychiatrist think I have made up a new disorder. I don't think they know enough. My husband is more interested in things that matters to him, that he is oblivious to all that's happening, or rather he wants to exclude our problems hoping that they will go away. I am so exhausted, insomniac for 18 years now and tending to my poor son. I will help myself by going to my car and driving to Sainsbury carpark and cry. Suicidal thoughts aren't only for the depressed. They can happen to 'normal' people under terrible stress.

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