Nicola, 46, is a fitness fanatic and mum of three. She’s also an NCMH Research Champion, helping to spread the word about our research. This is her story:
My name is Nicola, I’m 46 years old. I moved to Wales when I was 21 to study and have been here ever since. I’m a single mum to 3 youngish daughters and I’m not currently working. I’m a keep fit fanatic – it’s one of the few things that keep me sane! It’s nice to do something for myself, and the endorphin rush certainly helps too. I also volunteer teaching an adult literacy class, and when my children are a bit older I’d like to train as an adult teacher.
I had my first depressive episode when I was around 13, and it lasted for 2 years. It wasn’t until it lifted that I realised what I’d been like.
I was sent to various counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists throughout my teens, but personally I never found that those kinds of treatment worked for me.
When I was 21 I saw a psychiatrist who prescribed anti-depressants, which have certainly helped. I’ve tried a few different kinds of medication, but I do worry about building up a resistance, as this has happened before.
I saw an advert for NCMH on a bus, asking for volunteers to participate in the research. My father suffers from depression, one of his sisters died by suicide, and my sister and her daughter also suffer from depression. With what seems to be a strong genetic predisposition to depression in my family, I’m obviously concerned that it might affect my daughters. This is a big part of why I wanted to help with research.
Although great progress has been made in the last 30 years in the understanding and treatment of mental illness, there are still huge gaps in our knowledge and a tremendous amount of ignorance and prejudice in the understanding of society in general. If I can do anything to improve understanding then it’s got to be worth it, for myself and for anyone else affected by mental health issues.
My participation in the research process was quick and stress-free. The interviewer was friendly and chatty and the atmosphere relaxed. She asked me various questions and left me with a few questionnaires to complete and return in my own time. She also took a blood sample. Each step of the process was explained clearly and thoroughly.
I’m hoping to get my mum, sister and niece to participate in the study also, as I’m sure having four relatives’ genetic material to study would be useful. My niece, who is needle-phobic, is relieved to hear she can give a spit swab instead of a blood sample!