Sylvia's story

I think my mental illness was brought on by shock because I lost my husband and other members of my family in a short space of time. I had a few stays in hospital. I had ECT and I got better after that. Then I had another eight month stay in hospital, where the nurses and doctors were very helpful. Then I had to go into the Maudsley where I was diagnosed with bipolar. I was about 72 years old.

What affect does a mental illness have on family and friends?

I've only got one daughter and then my grandsons. I only wanted my daughter to visit me, I didn't tell anyone else I was ill, I was too embarrassed. It was a pressure on my daughter but she was brilliant.

Why did you want to take part in the programme?

I'm a volunteer at the hospital and I thought it was a way of getting to people. A lot of people think you're mad and you're not mad. The programme will make people more aware of what's going on in the world.

How much do you think a programme such as this can make a difference to the lives of the mentally unwell?

It gives people an insight into how you feel. There are people who are suffering who don't seek help. It will improve understanding of mental illness.

What do you think needs to be done to improve understanding of mental illness?

I think there needs to be more specialists at GP level. GPs try their best but its a funny illness - you don't know what you're doing yourself.

What was it like to take part in a Channel 4 documentary?

Brilliant, I really enjoyed it. We (Becky and Chris) had a laugh, you can't be too serious about life.

Did your treatment at SLaM help change your life?

I feel good now and have done for the last two years. But bipolar can come back. I just make sure I take my meds every day. The doctors and nurses were brilliant when I was in hospital. I'm thankful to them.

What would you say to other people who are scared to speak out about their mental illness?

Don't be too scared, you must try and speak out so you can get help if you want it. Don't suffer in silence.


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