MP reveals struggle with depression
Published 15/11/2012 | 16:44
Michelle Gildernew has admitted that she has battled with bouts of depression for 20 years.
The former Stormont agriculture minister said that on some occasions, she had difficulty even just getting dressed and going out the door.
The married mother-of-three, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, held down high pressure responsibilities at home and in the workplace as Sinn Fein's Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP but she broke her leg at the start of this year and was left feeling isolated.
She hit a new low after she was asked to give up her seat at the Assembly, where she chaired the health committee. She was asked to forfeit her Stormont seat as part of Sinn Fein's commitment to ending dual political mandates. Sinn Fein MPs do not attend Westminster debates but carry out constituency work.
She said: "You try to put your best face on you. There were times when I had to muster up the strength to go and see a constituent, go to a meeting, because that was what was expected of you. In the middle of it all you were dealing with other people's problems as well as your own. There were many days I didn't feel like going out the door."
Mrs Gildernew, 42, broke down in tears during her interview with the Impartial Reporter newspaper.
She first experienced bouts of depression 20 years ago after breaking her ankle playing football and when her beloved grandmother died.
She recalled being tearful, emotional, irritable and tired. "Every day was a struggle, every day. You didn't know if you had the energy to get through the day," she added.
She said her family forced her to get out of bed, but it was only when she spoke to a friend who also suffered from depression that she realised she needed medical help.
Mrs Gildernew said the community needed to help end the stigma of mental health problems. "If we continue to brush it under the carpet then that could become one in three (people affected) or one in two," she warned. "I am okay, I will be okay, but a lot of people out there are not and they need to speak to someone."