A young woman who has struggled with depression and anxiety since the age of five has made a film with Fixers showing that your mental health doesn’t have to define who you are.
Louise Bown stars in the film and recites a poem she has written about her experiences.
The 20-year-old, from Erdington in Birmingham, says: ‘From as young as five I remember feeling really bad about myself and thinking that I wanted to die. I was shy, reclusive and very quiet in school - I felt isolated and alone.
‘My family has a history of mental illness – my mum suffered from post-natal depression after having me and I think it’s something I was susceptible to growing up.’
When she was seven, Louise’s anxiety affected her sleep and she was taken to see a psychiatrist.
‘One night I saw a shadow in my room and it terrified me. For weeks afterwards I couldn’t sleep because I thought someone was in there. I told my parents that I’d seen something but they didn’t understand how much it had affected me,’ she says.
Her depression and anxiety continued to affect her during her childhood and teenage years.
‘I would go through phases of feeling low and having anxiety attacks and I had no self-esteem,’ she says.
‘School was tough because I was very anxious and shy so it was difficult for me to open up to people. Exams would trigger my symptoms and make me feel really stressed.’
Louise, who is now a youth worker at the YMCA in Sutton Coldfield, was prescribed antidepressants at the age of 16 and received cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help her cope.
She has continued to take medication and says that writing poetry, like the piece that she reads in her film, has provided her with a creative outlet.
‘Ever since school I’ve always loved writing and expressing my thoughts on paper, I find it very therapeutic. It’s definitely helped me a lot,’ she says.
Louise, who plans to share her film on social media, hopes that her campaign will encourage people to talk about mental health.
‘I want the film to show people that you can get through mental illness – it’s a part of your life but it isn’t all that you are,’ she says.
‘It’s important to have someone you feel you can talk to when you’re struggling. Confiding in someone that you know understands, respects and loves you can really help.
‘I know I’ll always have depression and anxiety but I wanted to use my experiences for something good.’
This project has been supported by Comic Relief.
To find other resources on this topic, and watch Fixers films, click on the image below.