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‘It really is a dark place’ – Armagh woman opens up about her battle with depression

Support from family, friends and work colleagues is vital in helping to combat mental health issues

“Looking back, I can see episodes of depression going back to my mid-teens but to be honest at that stage I thought it was just normal and didn’t pay any attention to how I was feeling.”

Armagh woman Suzanne Murphy has opened up about her battle with depression.

As part of Ulster Bank’s One Week in June partnership with depression charity AWARE, Armagh Ulster Bank staff member Suzanne Murphy wanted to share her story to help other people experiencing mental health issues and to highlight that with good support from family, friends, work colleagues and community support groups there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

Suzanne has been a staff member with Ulster Bank since 1989 and was delighted to return to her home turf to work with the branch team at Armagh three years ago.

The bubbly and chatty bank official feels it’s important to be frank and honest and jokes that when out and about meeting people she often says “I’m Suzanne and I’ve got depression” in a bid to take away any stigmas and get the chat going in an open and friendly manner.

“Looking back, I can see episodes of depression going back to my mid-teens but to be honest at that stage I thought it was just normal and didn’t pay any attention to how I was feeling,” said Suzanne. “Life goes forward and I left St Catherine’s College in Armagh and joined Ulster Bank.

“I reached a crisis point in March 2015 when one morning I simply couldn’t get out of bed. I’m sure there were triggers but I just didn’t recognise them.

“I felt completely flat and really couldn’t see a way forward and out of those feelings. It really is a dark place. It turns your world upside down, feels illogical and you lose a sense of yourself and your own worth.

“But it’s important to emphasize that depression is an illness and there is a lot of help available from GPS and support groups as well as talking therapies, medication and self-help strategies.

“I come from a tight knit family and both they and my GP really looked after me. I also had fabulous support from my friends and work colleagues at Ulster Bank Armagh.

“I had a mix of treatment including CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) counselling and medication. My boss at the bank was incredibly supportive and suggested I embarked on a Life Matters course. It was superb and so helpful.

“I needed to take seven months off work and that time was essential to undertake the various treatments and get me back on track.

“When I returned to work all my colleagues were wonderful, gave me hugs and helped me settle back into the job. It really meant so much to me. Recently I had a bit of a blip and was off for a few weeks and once again I had a fantastic welcome back from friends and colleagues. I simply couldn’t have managed without their support.”

As part of Ulster Bank’s AWARE fundraising campaign Suzanne was part of a panel who attended an informal talk and Q&A session organised by Ulster Bank’s Belfast City Centre team with AWARE and Cara-Friend representatives discussing the importance of mental health in a very frank and honest way.

Suzanne talked about her very personal story before guests enjoyed tapas foods followed by a quiz, raising over £300.

“It was an excellent evening and I was pleased to contribute by explaining my personal journey – I think it really helps other people,” she said.

“Two of my Armagh branch colleagues Martin Hughes and Linda Quinn made the trip to Belfast to support me which I really appreciated. We joked and called ourselves ‘The Three Musketeers.’

The Three Musketeers

“Knowing that you can depend on and trust friends and colleagues really makes all the difference. I actually went to school with Martin’s mum at St Catherine’s College, and I’ve personally known Martin and Linda for quite a few years, even before I moved to the Armagh branch.

“I’m continuing to keep very well and I have a range of coping mechanisms to help look after my mental health and wellbeing. If anyone reading this does feel they are experiencing mental health issues I would encourage them to seek help through their GP. Take it from me, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

During June, Ulster Bank is working with AWARE to raise funds to support the charity’s good work and to raise awareness of key issues in relation to mental wellbeing. They’ll be sharing tips and guidance on managing your mental well-being, as well as some of the stories about Ulster Bank staff’s fundraising activities throughout Northern Ireland on Belfast Live

AWARE is the only Northern Ireland charity which works exclusively for people suffering with depression and bipolar disorder. Operating two offices in Derry~Londonderry and Belfast, the organisation offers 24 support groups in rural and urban areas as well as online support, information outreach sessions and educational initiatives.

AWARE also delivers mental health and wellbeing programmes into communities, schools, colleges, universities and the workplace. For more information on mental health issues visit https://www.aware-ni.org/

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