This article is about depression: don’t look away, read it

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Lindsay Bruce hopes to raise funds by selling T-shirts he has made to help a young woman living in Scotland, who has faced major challenges. He wants you to help. Here in a searingly honest article, he explains why.

Kirsty is an artist. She dreams of unicorns and rainbows. Most know her by the name ‘Brave’, others by her Twitter handle ‘DefiAye’. Her art is full of joy, of bright vivid colours, and of happy smiling faces.

Her reality is somewhat different.

Kirsty – not her real name – has a chronic medical condition which has left her unable to work. Her days are filled with forms and assessments, of frustration and exasperation. She was under threat of being made homeless for a long time. She has constantly had to justify her benefits, to fight for what should rightly be hers, against an uncaring British state which just sees her as a liability, a number in a ledger book. She goes long periods without any income and with little food. Every day is a fight; a fight against her physical illness, a fight against bureaucracy, and a fight against the inky blackness of depression and despair. Every day it gets harder. Every day there is less hope.

DEBILITATING

People lucky enough to never have experienced depression often don’t understand just how debilitating an illness it is. They don’t understand why someone can’t simply pick themselves up and carry on. They don’t understand why someone suffering from depression will often refuse help, or why they shut themselves off from society.

Well, I’ve been there. I know all too well what a dark and lonely place it is. I understand what it’s like when all you can think of is the stupid, embarrassing and humiliating things you’ve done in your life. I understand what it means to feel completely worthless, to feel like the most useless piece of shit in the universe. I understand why you choose jobs with the least possible responsibility because you are just so fucking useless and a complete failure. I understand what it’s like when you have a panic attack when the phone rings or somebody knocks at the door. I understand what it’s like when somebody says something nice about you, you think they can’t possibly mean it and they must be lying. I understand how difficult it is to even get out of bed because you are so worthless, so pitiful, and such an utter c**t that you can’t look at yourself in a mirror. I understand what it’s like to sabotage relationships because you think your partner will be better off without you. I understand how the emotional pain just never, ever seems to stop. And I understand people who have fought against this their entire lives, and who feel that just can’t fight it any more.

People who live with depression are the bravest people on Earth. They have to fight incredibly hard every day just to do the little things that most people take for granted. They are brave because they are fighting against themselves, against their own mind, their own imbalanced brain. Courage is the ability to stand tall in face of the odds. Imagine the courage it takes to stand tall when your own brain is telling you every day that you’re a cowardly, worthless, despicable human being.

VULNERABLE

The UK government pushes these vulnerable people into a system which amplifies this, which tells them they were useless, worthless scroungers, which threatens to sanction them, to cut off all financial support. One woman was asked why she hadn’t killed herself. Another woman’s family was told via voicemail that her benefits would stop after she had already committed suicide. In 2015 the government’s own research linked 590 suicides directly to Work Capability Assessments, and studies by universities in Oxford and Liverpool showed that for every 10,000 Incapacity Benefit claimants between 2010 and 2013 there were 6 additional suicides, 2,700 self-reported claims of mental health problems, and an increase of 7,000 cases where anti-depressants were prescribed.

I’ve long admired Kirsty’s art and talent. A few months ago I got in touch with her to ask if we could use some of her beautiful pro-independence designs on T-shirts and posters. She was so thrilled to be asked that she sent me about two dozen designs she had, full of vivid colour, energy and hope. The regular printing process we use is single-colour, so I explained that we’d have to experiment with different processes to reproduce her wonderful artwork, and that once I figured that out I’d send her some samples.

Two weeks ago we were devastated to hear that Kirsty had taken an overdose. Her last post on Twitter said that the DWP was investigating her for alleged “benefit fraud”.

Kirsty survived and is recovering. Her friends rallied around her and organised a fundraiser to cover her living costs while she recuperates. You’ll find that fundraiser here .

But I wanted to do more. There are thousands of people like Kirsty all over Scotland, perhaps hundreds of thousands all over the UK. One fundraiser isn’t enough. It’s not good enough to try and save people after the fact, we have to stop the cause at source. That means raising public awareness, to get the public to demand change, to make it an issue that no politician can hide from.

So here’s what I can do: I can make T-shirts. Not many in the grand scheme of things perhaps, a few dozen a day. But everyone who wears one will be seen by hundreds of people every day. We hope that people will stop and ask “What’s that about?” and the wearer will explain it to them, and what they can do to help. It’s about bravery, it’s about fighting for those who have been ignored, discredited and marginalised. It’s about hope and decency and respect and a fairer society.

MOTIF

The design itself is one of Kirsty’s, a beautiful thistle motif, modified slightly to show a stylised brain in the void space. It’s subtle, but enough to pique interest.

You can buy the Brave series of T-Shirts here .

For each £12 T-shirt sold, we’ll give £2 to a mental health charity, and £2 to an anti-austerity charity. We’ll ask Kirsty to choose which charities she wants to support once she is feeling better. The T-shirts cost £6 to make, so that leaves £2 to cover PayPal fees, first class postage and packing. We only ask that you wear the T-shirt as often as possible and to talk to as many people as you can about the link between austerity, welfare cuts and mental health. Thank you.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Nice one Lindsay, it’s so important to raise this issue and to do something positive to bring it to prominence.

    Prevention isn’t always easy. Folks are adept at toughing it out until it’s too late…as I know only too well.

    And then often once you have been to the dark place, life after can be an endless performance on life’s stage attempting to keep the plate of normality spinning. Not always an easy job.

    One of the best therapies is this which you have raised, to let folks who suffer know that they are not alone and that a sympathetic ear is not too far away.

  2. Hi Lindsay we met on Bruntsfield Links a few months ago =)

    The T shirts look great and are a really good idea.

    My son told me what happened to Defiaye.

    It is so difficult to imagine how someone so talented and who creates such sunny art could end up feeling so desperate and so low.

    But the cruelty of the persistant ill treatment at the hands of those who are supposed to look after our needs is abuse beyond understanding.

    Defiaye is now, I hope, surrounded by love and good wishes and can actualy believe in that love. And recieve that love.

    I wonder how many folk never look for help because they don’t think they are important enough to actualy have depression. But just go on feeling really bad because that’s what they accept their life is.

    If these lovely T shirts get folk talking and sharing then they WILL save lives.

    Well done pet. Thank you for caring and then going a step further and actualy doing something truely helpful = )

  3. Would you be able to ship overseas, I am in Oman and would happily cover the postage costs to support this. My twitter header is Brave’s work which she happily let me download for nothing. I followed the suicide period and felt helpless. This wy I can give something back to this talented young lady.

  4. There you go Lindsay, your braw idea is about to take Brave global ! =)

    George Craig in Oman, good call 🙂

  5. Lindsay, wee thought, I know that mental health amongst young folk is close to our First Minister’s heart.

    Have you sent this to Nicola Sturgeon?

    I think you could find a real patron there =)

  6. Thanks for all the positive comments, much appreciated! I heard from “Kirsty” last night via a mutual friend and she was thrilled that so many people have engaged with this. She is still recovering and it will be a long time before the mental scars heal, but positive news will help that process. Creating something beautiful out of that very dark place is in itself a healing force and the knowledge that this will help others has lifted her spirits greatly. She is surrounded by love and care and we all look forward to her making a full recovery.

    Regarding shipping to Oman, yes absolutely we can do that. Unfortunately the postal charges are pretty brutal, and Small Parcel rate (up to 1 Kg, meaning one or two T-shirts) is £13.25 on top of the T-shirt price. If you’re still interested, you can email me at orders[at]ayemail.scot and we can work out the details.

    I will definitely try to get the FM’s attention and was thinking of sending a T-shirt to her office. Hope I guess her size correctly! 🙂

  7. Just a thought.
    If you use some of Brave’s unicorns in kids sizes, I think they would sell like hotcakes (esp. the multi-coloured prancing unicorn). How nice would that be for Brave to see kids wearing them.
    She has done so many fantastic designs, they would all sell well.
    All with the Brave logo as above.
    Hope she’s feeling better.

  8. Make mine a large, blue as shown on this article. How do I pay?. The unicorn design would be interesting too.

  9. Greetings mr Bruce,
    Nice to see you still active and helping with awareness of mental health issues, very brave of you to share your experiences on here, both of which we have/still do suffer from – I hope life is treating you a whole lot better now you are back in the motherland.
    I will order a T shirt and wear it with pride and a deep personal understanding of its meaning.
    Keep up the good work and keep in touch, please let me know more if your work.
    Take care my good friend – you are doing great work.

    Mr Goth

  10. Hi Lindsay, thanks so much for this article and for raising the plight of Kirsty and so many others – myself included. I hope that the fundraising with the T-shirts help give her a boost and they’re pretty cool. My only concern is that the DWP might see fit to give Kirsty hassle if they believe she’s getting extra income (?). Whilst I applaud pieces like this, which do help raise awareness, what we really need in Scotland is for the SG to really get its finger out regarding mental health. I know they’ve published a new 10-year Strategy this year, all the aims of which are laudable.
    However, as someone who has been trying to access mental health services in Edinburgh it has been a joke. I’m saying this from a position of being an SNP member/voter, but they have been in power for 10 years and in Edinburgh, at least, the situation is dire.
    I have a history of depression/CPTSD and have attempted suicide several times. I came back to the city in January and by June I was so ill I had to give up any hope of attempting work and went to my GP. It’s now October and I still haven’t had any 1:1 support. In July I told my doctor I was suicidal and her answer was to double my meds and gave me a list of counsellors to contact – despite suicide attempts on my medical records.I FORCED her to refer me to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital but they didn’t want to admit me because I wasn’t psychotic. I self-referred to a trauma centre – which I discovered has a three and a half months waiting list for a PRE assessment. No chance of individual support until March to May next year. Asked to be referred to CPN services but was turned down because I’d already referred myself to the trauma centre.
    I self-referred to a mental health NGO in July looking for a peer support worker. My application was ignored until I contacted the Regional Manager and I will have an “interview” this month to see if I can get peer support.
    Notice the term “self-refer” in my experience. I’ve had absolutely no help in trying to access services. Doing it on your own is exhausting/daunting. Each service have their own forms (often many pages long) to be filled in for “risk assessment”. Coupled with 24 page long forms from the DWP to claim a pittance, it can be totally overwhelming.
    So, much as I’m a nationalist, I’m disgusted with the lack of services on offer. People with mental ill health are very much treated as second class citizens. I had a friend who discovered a shadow on his liver about the same time I got ill. Since then he’s had several scans, seen two consultants, received treatment and has monthly checks to see what the situation is regarding his liver. I’ve yet to see a psychiatric NURSE, let alone a psychiatrist.
    So let’s not beat about the bush here. It’s great people are trying to fundraise etc, give money to NGO’s and so on, but the mental health system in Scotland is CRAP. So come on Nichola Sturgeon and Maureen Watt (Mental Health Minister), stop citing platitudes and talking about 2017-2027, you’ve been in power for 10 years and things are worse than they were in 2004 during my last severe illness. I’m sick of SNP Baaad stories in the media, but their current record on mental health is abysmal and they should be held to account. (Do I sound angry? You bet I am, I’m totally ‘Jackie Baillied”- off about it. (If you read Wee Ginger Dug you’ll know what I mean!)

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