Fearne Cotton has always been willing to discuss her struggles with depression in the public eye; since her diagnosis several years ago, she has opened up about the symptoms she experienced, the warning signs she missed, the medication that doctors prescribed for her, and how her life has changed as a result.
Now, in a bid to further encourage conversations about mental health, she has opened up about the effects social media can have on depression sufferers – both positive and negative.
Speaking to the BBC about her own presence on social media (and, in particular, the ‘happy’ photos she shares on Instagram), Cotton explained: “Social media is a tricky one because I love it and I dislike a lot of it as well.
“I like the fact that it gives me a control as to what I would like people to see of me, it’s less hearsay, less second-hand news. But the bit that is dangerous, especially for younger women, is looking at other people’s lives and doing that awful ‘compare and despair’ sort of thing. You put your own life against others and [sometimes you start] believing in the fantasy that you see.”
The TV and radio host added: “I do try and show a fair reflection of what my days are like, but I don’t think I would have wanted to have put any of my episodes of depression on there, as it feels like the wrong platform.”
Cotton, who went public with her depression diagnosis in a bid to tackle the taboos around mental health, admitted that she was terrified of speaking out at first.
However she needn’t have worried, as the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“[Going public] was the most terrifying part,” revealed the 35-year-old, “but the response has been amazing.
“I had three friends in one week come to me – and none of us had spoken a word to each other about our own experiences – to [tell me they also had depression]. And we’ve all talked about that now, and I think that helps to dissipate any shame or fear about that being part of your backstory.
“That’s been the loveliest part of it. I did not dream that this would be the response that I would get.”
Cotton continued: “Loneliness is such a huge problem on planet earth and if you are in that position it is incredibly tough. I think there are always people willing to listen, either professionally or a friend or colleague, but it’s having that courage to speak out first.”
She added: “I am very fortunate to have a great, small but great, circle of friends that I implicitly trust. And that’s a comfort blanket for me in this subject.”
Just a few weeks ago, Cotton was announced as the official ambassador for Mind, the mental health charity.
Speaking about her appointment, Cotton explained: “Through my new role as a Mind ambassador I would like to try and help stop the subject of depression being such a taboo. Depression is more common than people realise and one in six people will experience it during their lifetime.
“It was one of the most difficult things that I have ever faced in my life.”
She added: “I hope that by speaking out about the challenges I faced it might just help others going through similar experiences. I am absolutely delighted to be joining Mind and helping the charity to raise awareness of the many ways that people can build their own resilience and maintain good mental wellbeing.”
Depression, according to Mind, is a low mood that causes us to feel sad, hopeless, or miserable about life; these feelings last for a long time, and usually affect our everyday life.
Psychological symptoms include:
- Feeling upset or tearful
- Finding no pleasure in life or the things you usually enjoy
- Feeling isolated and unable to relate to others
- Experiencing a sense of unreality
- Finding yourself unable to concentrate
- Feeling hopeless, empty, or numb
Physical symptoms include:
- Losing interest in sex
- Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
- Physical aches and pains with no cause
- Feeling tired all the time
- Moving very slowly
- Having no appetite and losing weight, or eating too much and gaining weight
However, while there are many signs and symptoms, everyone’s experience of depression will vary. As a general rule of thumb, mental health experts advise that you visit your GP if you experience symptoms of depression for most of the day, every day, for more than two weeks.
You can find out more information – including a series of approved self-care tips – on the Mind website.