Why we all need to adopt Richard Dreyfuss’ attitude towards depression

The Oscar-winning Hollywood actor on why he was never ashamed of his mental health.

In recent years there has been a great deal of energy put into battling the stigma around mental health issues.

Charities like CALM and initiatives like Time To Talk have promoted the idea that having mental health issues is nothing to be ashamed of, and raised awareness of the growing epidemic of men’s suicide, still the biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK.

I am a fervent supporter of people who are thinking of taking therapy

It’s refreshing then to hear the legendary Hollywood actor Richard Dreyfuss talk so candidly about his own mental health, and his experience with therapy, in this week’s Letter To My Younger Self. In it, he mentions how a foundation asked him to speak about his own shame and embarrassment. “I said, you’re talking to the wrong guy,” was his response.

“I had no shame at all. Manic depression is one of the defining elements of my character. And I have no problem with saying it.

“I knew since I was 10 or 11 that I had what was later diagnosed as manic depression. I had fun in therapy when I was 17 or 18 years old…finding things, uncovering things that you didn’t know. It takes an intelligent stranger to point that out to you, which is why I am a fervent supporter of people who are thinking of taking therapy.”

Around 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem every year, and in England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem – such as anxiety or depression – in any given week.

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However, mental health services across England have suffered budget cuts of 8% year on year since 2011; almost of third of NHS mental health beds have been lost, and 15% of mental health nurse posts have gone, all in the past decade.

The more people continue to speak up about their own mental health issues, the sooner Richard Dreyfuss’ attitude will become more commonplace. One can only hope that will have a knock on effect when it comes to Government support.

Read Richard Dreyfuss’ full Letter To My Younger Self in this week’s Big Issue Magazine. Pick up a copy from your local vendor for £2.50 or buy a copy from the Big Issue Shop.