An on-line video featuring Doug Leddin speaking about his decade long battle with depression has reached millions of people over the past week. Speaking to the Galway Advertiser in the aftermath of a whirlwind few days, where he appeared on live television twice on Monday, Mr Leddin says he has been blown away by the positive reaction to the emotional video.
The Dublin native is well known around Galway due to his role as marketing manager of An Púcán. He decided to release the video after eventually becoming tired of living a lie and pretending his life was perfect. The 27-year old now feels an immense sense of relief after telling the truth and laying himself bare for the world to see. Anyone who has viewed the video will be aware of its gritty rawness, and it is no surprise that it has elicted such a powerful response.
The piece begins with a close-up of Doug’s face. “Over the past ten years I’ve been living two different lives. The life that my family, my friends, my colleagues and my teammates see - but then there’s the life that I see, that I live and feel.” Doug goes on to explain that while friends and family would describe him as ‘positive’ and ‘happy-go-lucky’, that is not the case - and that in fact he is suffering ‘immensely’ with depression. He says that he is speaking out in the hope of helping the millions of others battling with depression from around the world. He urges others to speak out and seek help if needed.
He orignally had a script and planned to use that, but Ger Walsh, who helped make the video, put paid to that. “I was all set to read it but he pulled it off me and just said ‘talk’. It was off the cuff, it wasn’t perfect but I think that’s why it got the reaction it did because it was not scripted.”
This compelling video has once again highlighted the power of social media and its ability to garner a global audience. The four minute piece has been viewed 1.1 million times on Mr Leddin’s personal Facebook page alone, and shared thousands of times. He appeared on TV3’s Ireland AM on Monday morning, and on RTE’s The Claire Byrne Show that evening, and global media organisations such as The Huffington Post have covered the story.
He never expected such a response - and more importantly such an overwhelmingly positive response. “I have had so many Facebook messages, texts and e-mails that I can’t even get back to everyone. People have been amazing. One of the first people to send me an e-mail was Bressie (who has been upfront about his own mental health battle ). I did not expect this reaction nor did I do it for that - I did it for myself. I was sick of hiding and pretending, that is a horrible thing to have to live with for so many years. I needed to get it off my chest and it has been such a sense of relief. The positive reaction has been an added bonus. What has also been heartening has been the number of people who have spoken out about their own problems since. I want to get people talking. I would love to be part of a movement of change. I think people are finding comfort in this story.”
He believes the reaction to his heartfelt piece has shown there is not as much of a stigma about depression as people think. “For those who are suffering, that stigma can only exist in your own head. The support has been phenomenal, I’d say out of thousands of comments I have seen on Facebook, there might have been 30 - 40 negative ones. It is definitely hard for people to understand depression, to ‘get it’, when it is not visible. You will always have that small few telling you to ‘man-up’ or ‘cop-on’. I want people who haven’t suffered to try harder to understand. We are lucky there are so many amazing organisations out there aswell such as Console, Pieta House, Jigsaw etc, nobody should ever feel that they have no-one to talk to.”
He manages to eloquently explain the feelings he has been living with for a decade. “You are very down - constantly dark. There is a feeling of constant anxiety and pressure, a darkness releasing inside you. After so long you become numb to it. You are trying to hide it, hold it in, its a horrible feeling. You don’t know why you are feeling the way you are and but you are trapped, in a corner. You get emotional and breakdown, then go to bed, hide under the covers and don’t to get out. The worst of it is the hiding - not wanting anyone to know how you feel, not wanting them to know there is anything wrong with you.”
Denial about his issues was a factor for a long time. and he would not admit to having depression for a long time. “I’d say for six, seven, eight years I was like ‘I don’t have a problem, this is ridiculous.’ I have been working with my psychologist for a long time about opening up to others and I have finally become strong enough to do that.”
Life is a lot better now and he is on a journey to recovery and it is vital that he takes care of himself to ensure that continues. “I am still on anti-depressants but I am in a much better place. It is important I mind myself in the midst of all this and I don’t get on a false high, because we all know what comes after a high. I have to keep an eye on my mood and ensure I stay level. I’m not better but speaking out has helped me, and I believe it will help others too. It certainly won’t make you feel any worse anyway. I now know I don’t have to suffer alone and that is a huge help.”