Radio Verulam presenter urges men to talk about mental health as part of It’s Okay to Say campaign
- Credit: Archant
St Albans’ Radio Verulam presenter Danny Smith has opened up about his struggles with mental health as part of the It’s Okay To Say campaign.
The Herts Ad has partnered with leading anxiety specialist Stacey Turner to launch the campaign, which encourages people of all ages to speak out has presented West Herts Drivetime for nine years, was diagnosed with severe depression in September 2010, and is eager to encourage other people, especially men, to be honest about how they are feeling.
Danny said: “I have been under psychiatric care and have been under regular supervision by my GP, who helps me to manage my condition on an ongoing basis.
“I’ve never needed to use any service in an emergency but I know what there is available when I do need it. I’ve been to a wellbeing clinic on Waverley Road, and there used to be a place on London Road called Edinburgh House but they closed it down.
“The support I’ve had from my GP has been phenomenal.”
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Although Danny’s depression means he is unable to work, his role at Radio Verulam has kept him occupied and given him a platform to raise awareness.
He said: “Because I am someone who suffers with mental health problems I’ve always been quite a champion for it, and I’ve tried to use my radio show as a platform to promote charities and raise support.
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“Radio Verulam have been really good in their support of me. I can’t do it every day and I’m not well enough to hold down a regular job.
“Doing something voluntary like Radio Verulam is very good because it gives me a degree of routine. On my bad days I’m not required to do it and they understand if I don’t feel like it on a particular day.”
While Danny has received support from the NHS and is able to receive benefits, the loss of services will make it harder for others in the same situation.
He said: “There used to be an NHS project called ‘Pathways to Work’ and it had an office on St Peter’s Street. It closed because I believe they lost their funding.
“That was a great support to help people with mental health. It would help people start work again - it’s a shame that they’re not there anymore.”
Pathways to Work supported Danny when he had to go to court to fight of his right to receive benefits.
“One of my burning passions is trying to do something about the benefits system,” he said. “It’s almost designed to work against people with mental health issues.
“I get reassessed every year by the Department for Work and Pensions, and I have to go through an assessment by someone with no medical training.
“They declared me fit for work and I had to go to a tribunal. Pathways to Work helped me with the tribunal and they said they were spending most of their time helping people like me.”
Danny is supporting the It’s Okay To Say campaign because he believes men are not always encouraged to seek help and be open about their problems.
He said: “Particularly for men it’s quite difficult. You’ve got to toughen up a bit and not talk about how you feel.
“When people ask ‘how are you?’ it’s just a knee-jerk reaction to seeing someone, and you say ‘I’m good thanks’ and that’s also just a knee-jerk reaction.
“I’d like to challenge people and say if you’re not feeling good, say it. You’ll soon see who your real friends are and hopefully your real friends will take the time to talk about it.”
Campaign founder Stacey added: “Danny is right, for various reasons many men don’t feel it natural to open up and talk and it should be the norm.
“I wish men knew they are at their toughest when they do say...
“It’s OK To Feel, It’s OK To Say and when we do, we reject the stigma inspiring others to do so. It’s incredible how we connect to others when we are open.”
Follow the campaign on social media:
Facebook: It’s OK To Say
Website: www.itsoktosay.org.uk (coming soon!)