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By Gill Cox
Last updated at 10:03 PM on 20th August 2011
Dark days: The online forum gives people suffering from depression a place to share their feelings
A free online mentoring service made by and for those suffering from depression has been launched.
Jayne Hardy and Samantha Hadadi set up the facility after Samantha read Jayne’s online blog and realised they shared a history of depression.
The pair and their husbands then began to think how they could help others.
Through Twitter, they gained hundreds of followers and began planning for an online mentoring service, providing a space for sufferers, families and friends to share their feelings.
The website, blurtitout.org, went live on August 3 and received 297 hits in its first day.
The team offer mentoring, not counselling, and are recruiting other mentors, arranging training days, and fundraising to support the project.
Jayne, 30, a book-keeper from Plymouth, says: ‘Doctors often didn’t have time to help, and the antidepressants they prescribed made me worse.
‘One gave me insomnia, another made me aggressive. I was told counselling could take 12 weeks to start, which seemed like a lifetime, so I stopped asking for their help.
‘Because I’d become withdrawn and isolated, I’d have felt too intimidated to walk into a selfhelp group of strangers. I felt ashamed of being depressed.
‘What helped me was admitting the problem to my now husband, Dom, and we went online together to research what might help.
‘The online forums we found seemed very negative, but we discovered information on diet, vitamins and exercise and making those lifestyle changes helped.
‘Then, the more we thought about it, the more we wanted to offer help’: Jayne Hardy and Samantha Hadadi have set up an online forum for depression (posed by model)
‘Then, the more we thought about it, the more we wanted to offer help to others, a place where they could share their feelings.’
Samantha, 25, from Hinkley, Leicestershire, who works in PR, first experienced depression at university.
She says: ‘I would lock myself in my bedroom from the middle of the day and cry myself to sleep. It spiralled even further downwards after the ending of a poisonous four-year relationship.
Affected: Depressed young people often find it difficult to join a group which is why the pair think online mentoring could work
‘From someone who took pride in their appearance, I became a mess, refused to wash or dress and became virtually nocturnal.
‘My mum urged me to seek help. I was lucky. My doctor was understanding, antidepressants did help, as did the counselling my doctor lined up.
‘But I know I would never have considered joining a group, even if I’d known they were there. I think many young people would be similarly reluctant, which is why I think our online mentoring could prove especially helpful.’
Depression and anxiety are diagnosed in one in six people in the UK over their lifetime.
Many more suffer, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists estimates that only a quarter of those with depression ever get treatment.
Studies show that partners of depressed people are at high risk of also developing depression.
Advice to carers of a depressive is to encourage healthy eating and exercise, and be positive about small achievements.
The women’s husbands, Dominic Hardy, 32, and Monty Hadadi, 28, are keen that men suffering themselves, or as partners, should have somewhere to offload.
‘The stress [of having a depressive partner] was often too much. There were times that I broke down and couldn’t face it any more,’ says Monty, an accountant. ‘
Sometimes just getting your feelings off your chest may be enough,’ says Dom, a book-keeper.
Mark Davies, spokesman for Rethink Mental Illness, says: ‘This peer support can help you see that you’re not alone, and there is hope. This offers a valuable alternative to those who don’t want to join a face-to-face group.’