The new Mayor of Lambeth Cllr Christopher Wellbelove has given a moving account of his battle against depression, of how as a child he lived in an abusive household, and how he survived a suicide attempt having taken an overdose.
Cllr Wellbelove’s speech came as he was installed as Mayor of Lambeth for a second time. As News From Crystal Palace has previously reported, it was a speech continually interrupted from the public gallery by victims of abuse in childrens homes run by Lambeth council and their predecessors..
News From Crystal Palace was unable to hear some of the Mayor’s speech at the time because of the continual heckling and barracking and has waited until a full copy was made available to us. Here it is:
“For my year as Mayor my focus will on raising awareness of suicide prevention and mental health. “My Charity for this year is Mosaic Clubhouse who do amazing work in our community supporting people living with mental health conditions.
“If a virus was to affect and take as many lives as suicide does, a state of emergency would be called. “Together we have to take action, change opinions and end the stigma attached to mental health which stops so many speaking up and seeking help.
“My own struggle with anxiety and depression started as a child. “The effects of living in an abusive household do not leave when you leave home.
“At its worse it resulted in me waking one day in a hospital plugged into a heart machine with marks on my extremities from where they had put charcoal into my body in an attempt to absorb the overdose I had taken.
“I was in my mid-20s and it followed a terrible year where my depression and anxiety left me virtually unable to speak and often crippled with anxiety when attempting to go to work.
“Taking the overdose was not a cry for help, when I took it I was in the height of an anxiety attack.
“At that point you do not think of the heartache and pain you will cause others – all I wanted to do was to end my pain and was so low I did not believe I was worth living.”
Cllr Wellbelove’s comments followed another speech given by Paul Davis who spoke of his experience of living with mental health conditions and how the Mosaic Club – Cllr Wellbelove’s chosen charity – had helped him at the council’s annual Mayor-making ceremony on May 23rd.
His speech was listened to in silence by abuse victims in the public gallery and received a standing ovation from all councillors – and from some members of the public in the town hall gallery.
“Like Paul this was not my only attempt, it was just the one where I ironically refer to as where I was nearly successful.
“I am thankful for the help I received, the support I have had over the years from family and friends and as a past customer of the Maudsley hospital for the many health workers who help people like us.
“Throughout depressive periods you would usually see me still smiling, because that is what we do. “Not wanting to burden others, not wanting to be a dark cloud.
“But I now know the signs and know to speak up when I can feel Im going down. “It’s a crafty bugger and can sneak from nowhere and before you know it – its taken hold again.
“For others we all need to be that look out. “You will see a change in people, you will think they are not quite right or see a post on social media and think ‘are they OK’? “Trust your gut and gently let them know you are there.
“Our mental health services are struggling to deal with what can only be described as a crisis in our society, so I am so thankful for Mosaic Clubhouse for the work they do and hope you will support my Mayor’s charity fund this year to help them continue and grow their work.
“In the next year I will use every opportunity possible to talk about the need to end the silence.
“If you hear of a suitable event please let the Mayor’s office know as I will be working with Mosaic Clubhouse to make sure we reach as many people as possible and either I or one of their members will be more than happy to come along to speak about this issue.
“By the way I am extremely glad to still be here, becoming Mayor has made me very, very, very happy – I’m delighted to once again to bring my smile, energy, laughter and excitement to the role of Mayor of Lambeth – my goodness I would have missed out on so so much.
“Let’s make sure others do not miss out too.”
(Mosaic Clubhouse’s website says: Mosaic Clubhouse supports people who are living with a mental health condition in the London borough of Lambeth. Mosaic’s approach is built on the internationally-recognised Clubhouse model , which embeds co-production between staff and members throughout all activities.
The Clubhouse offers its members and visitors a wide range of volunteering opportunities, access to education & employment , crisis support , information and signposting to other local organisations.)