Get well soon, Mr Woodcock. Your bravery should help break the depression taboo

One in four of us gets a kicking from some sort of mental illness at some point

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Kudos to John Woodcock, a Labour MP who has publicly uttered three words that men in particular aren't supposed to say: “I am depressed.” He's had periodic visits from what Winston Churchill called “black dog”, and is now seeking help. As it harasses him, it's even stopping him from playing with his children, which must be bleak indeed for any loving dad.

One in four of us gets a kicking from some sort of mental illness at some point, but it remains one of the great taboos. Sufferers fear being damned as dysfunctional, creepy, mood-killers or burdens. It's become ever easier for men to open up about feelings and insecurities, but even now the invisible repression of unreconstructed masculinity hunts down men seen as weak or cowardly. "Stop being such a woman," is the sort of jibe many men expressing any form of vulnerability still endure.

It doesn't just leave many silently trapped by their distress. It kills, too. The suicide rate is highest among men in their thirties and early forties. That alone makes it crucial that we open up as a nation.

It's an odd one, depression. It hit me in my mid-teens, and I was put on anti-depressants for year, which help some more than others. At the time, my life had never been happier: I was surrounded with friends, and felt liberated from the stultifying routine of high school. It was a sudden, seemingly unprovoked and sometimes frightening bout.

But we should just see it as another form of ill health that needs to be treated. Public figures like John Woodcock are under no obligation to take a stand, but speaking out does sap the stigma. He is an example who will undoubtedly encourage others.

Warm wishes as he returns to good health.

To read John Woodcock's blog, click here

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