Two young Co Down people helping raise awareness of depression

Two young people from Northern Ireland are sharing their experiences of mental ill-health to encourage others to avail of support provided by charity, Aware.

By Helen McGurk
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 12:50 pm

Jordan Poucher and Eve Elliot are telling their stories in a special ‘My Journey with Depression’ video series on AWARE’s social media.

Eve Elliott from Banbridge joined AWARE’s Newry support group after experiencing a bout of anxiety and depression at university.

The 20-year-old said: “Depression ebbs and flows. It’s a wave that you learn to ride. I’ve been struggling on and off for a few years.

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Eve Elliott and Jordan Poucher attend AWARE's support group in Newry

“My symptoms got worse at university after I had gone through a medical diagnosis of ADHD, juggling virtual learning with moving to a new city. It all became too much and I dropped out of university in January.”

Eve added: “I came home and started looking for some extra support with how I was feeling. That’s when I found AWARE and came along to one of their support groups.

“I’ve never regretted coming to a group. It’s given me a sense of community that I didn’t have before. Everyone there just gets it.”

And Eve added that the meetings aren’t all “doom and gloom”.

“We do laugh every week. We support each other and it’s a very uplifting experience.

“What I would say to other young people, is that you are not alone. We often bottle things up until our glass is overflowing.”

“When you’re young, you’re at this fork in the road where you’re trying to find yourself and make important decisions. It’s crucial to have a good network of support around you. AWARE’s support groups are a safe space. We laugh together, and we cry together.”

Jordan attends the AWARE support group in Newry and is a volunteer facilitator for the groups in Newcastle and Lurgan

He said: “I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety, including feelings of wanting to take my own life for several years now. I started to show a lot of the symptoms of depression during secondary school. It started to be noticed by my mum and others around me. I realised it was more than just feeling sad or low.

“I went down the normal route of getting help, seeing my GP, trying medications and therapy. Everything had a temporary affect but it was only when I started coming to the AWARE support group, that I saw a lasting improvement with my depression and anxiety.”

Jordan added: “I first heard about AWARE when I was scrolling through social media in a pit of depression one night, and I saw a video on social media. A few days later, I was in sitting in a coffee shop and I read the back of a T-shirt belonging to a group facilitator which had the AWARE logo on it and the tagline ‘overcoming depression, changing lives’. That spurred me on to do what I really needed to do which was to seek some extra support. It was daunting. I think I made it to the door of the support group six times before I eventually overcame my anxieties and made it through.

“Depression is a very lonely illness. It’s easy to feel alienated. But when I sit down at an AWARE support group, I look around at smiling faces and people of all ages. I realise everybody is in the same boat as me. Everybody understands what I’m going through.”

He added: “I think a lot of people when you tell them you’re depressed, because you’re smiling and putting on that mask if you’re on a night out or you’re out in public, people look at you and think ‘there’s nothing wrong with him’ ‘he’s not depressed’. I realised from coming to the group that everybody with depression dons that mask but when you’re around other people with the illness, you don’t have to.”

Jordan said he would encourage anybody who is struggling with their mental health to attend a support group.

“I know myself how hard it is to walk through that door for the first time but I’m just so grateful I read the back of that AWARE t-shirt that day. I’ve started to see a massive improvement in my mood. I look forward to coming to the group. I can really be myself.”

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week runs until May 15. To mark the week, AWARE’s free-to-attend peer support groups welcome people of all ages experiencing depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

They are facilitated by a team of trained volunteers, many of whom have personal experience of mental ill-health. Attendees can meet others going through similar experiences and find out how to get further help if they need it.

Kate Richardson, communications officer at AWARE, said: “Living with a mental health problem can be isolating, but it’s important to know that you are not alone. Mental ill-health is common, affecting one in five adults in Northern Ireland, but also treatable.

“We believe that talking to others who know how you feel is an important step in your journey to recovery. That’s where our support groups come in.”

*To find out more about AWARE, visit www.aware-ni.org, or if you’re interested in attending a support group, please email [email protected]