Couple's online mental health support
A WOMAN who battled depression for eight years has set up a pioneering online support group with her husband.
At her lowest point, Jayne Hardy was scared to leave the house and became completely isolated from her friends.
She and her husband Dom launched free mentoring service Blurt to help others talk about depression, anxiety and stress.
Within eight months, more than 500 people across the country have signed up for help.
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Jayne and Dom, of The Barbican, told their story to encourage others to speak up about mental health problems.
They are hoping to recruit 10 more mentors to reach out to more people.
Jayne, aged 30, said: "One in five people will suffer from depression in their lifetime.
"It's a staggering statistic which means it's likely that all of us will be touched by it either ourselves or through friends and relatives.
"Unfortunately, the illness is still misunderstood. There is still a stigma attached which encourages people to hide how they are suffering."
She cannot recall when her symptoms started.
"I just gradually became more introverted and anxious, when I had always been so confident beforehand," she said. "It was little things that built up – not wanting to go to parties, always feeling tired, sleeping more. But you don't really notice until you are totally isolated and people are asking why they haven't seen you for ages."
She was signed off work as an accountant and later left her job due to her condition.
"I didn't have anything to get out of bed for," said Jayne. "I wasn't eating properly, didn't even care about brushing my hair or cleaning my teeth. I was scared to leave the house"
She said one of the main things that helped her was being encouraged by Dom to talk, "blurt out", how she felt on a daily basis.
"Being honest about my depression, instead of lying about it, was liberating," she said. "Compared to how I felt, I am so happy and content."
Changing her diet, regularly exercising and balancing her work and the rest of her life were also vital, she said.
The couple run their own book-keeping business, as well as managing The Blurt Foundation.
They set up Blurt to help other people speak up about their feelings.
The charitable organisation provides a confidential way for people to communicate with others about their depression. It has attracted people from all walks of life, from 15 to 70 years old.
Blurt mentors, who are all volunteers who have suffered from depression themselves, are matched with people needing support and reassurance. They communicate via email, providing a round-the-clock service.
The charity's biggest outgoing is £10 CRB checks for mentors.
Jayne and Dom are asking people to 'go the extra mile' during Mental Health Awareness Week, May 21 to 27, by walking, running, skipping or jumping one mile to raise funds for Blurt and awareness.
For further information, visit www.blurtitout.org