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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Cumbrian man's blog on depression battle goes global

A Penrith man’s blog about his battle with depression has attracted global recognition – including a mention from rock star Duff McKagan.

Andrew Lawes photo
Andrew Lawes

Andrew Lawes, 27, put his first entry online at the end of August and in just over three weeks had attracted 18,500 views from as far afield as Brazil, Russia and the US.

It came to the attention of former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff, who went on to mention the Cumbrian in his column for Seattle Weekly.

Since then, his frank and honest postings have been featured by Black Dog Tribe, the mental health charity headed by Ruby Wax, and online magazine the Good Men Project, which boasts more than 500,000 readers a month.

Andrew, whose worst bout of depression was two years ago, has just launched his own website to meet the demand. He said that when he first launched the blog he had no idea what he was starting.

“I just wanted to write my story, about what I’d been through, so that people – mainly family and friends – could understand,” he explained.

“At the time I was worried that my depression was coming back. I thought that if I got ill again I didn’t want to end up isolated like last time.

“Also the nature of the illness is that when you are experiencing it you are too scared to talk about it. It takes over. So I wanted to write about it while I still could.”

He opened his heart and started writing – looking back at how depression took over his life, leaving him terrified by his own dark thoughts.

He first posted on blog site Tumblr, then spread links via Facebook and Twitter.

Almost immediately he had a response: “I was physically shaking when I posted it. Then my phone started vibrating and didn’t stop. I had so many messages. Some from people I hadn’t spoken to in ages.”

The blog was gradually on the internet and strangers started getting in touch.

In mid September it was picked up by the Guns N Roses’ star, who mentioned Andrew in a wider column he was writing about the 9/11 attacks and their links to depression.

“That was all pretty surreal. To have this massive rock star reading and writing about your blog,” said Andrew.

“I just realised that for whatever reason people were actually listening to what I was saying. That it was helping.”

With the help of a friend he has now turned it from a blog into a dedicated website – www.andrew-lawes.com.

Andrew, a support worker for adults with learning difficulties, said that not only has writing about his depression helped in his own recovery, he also feels as though he has turned it into a positive.

“A lot of people have said to me that they wish they could talk this openly about it. There is still this stigma attached.

“But one in four people suffer from mental health problems of some sort. That’s a massive percentage of the population. Hopefully I can help more people understand.”


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