With World Mental Health Day just around the corner (10 October) one radio presenter has broken his silence about his secret battle with depression.
Matt Webb, who’s the Head of Production and Afternoon Presenter on community radio station, Cambridge 105 tells RadioToday how radio and his love of the industry got him through one of the most difficult periods of his life.
“I was first diagnosed with depression in 2010. I finally visited my GP because I was struggling to get out of bed in the morning and my morale was at rock bottom. It was one of the most difficult things to do. Why? Because I had to open up to someone I didn’t know and unload my deepest thoughts and feelings. Even radio presenters can close up about their private life, off air. So, I was put on a course of the anti-depressant fluoxetine and asked to revisit again in a few weeks. That was the start of my recovery journey.
Listeners and friends always knew me as a happy and positive person on the outside – but on the inside the feeling was the complete opposite.
My depression affected my health to an extent where I had to leave my main salaried job in retail, but continued volunteering a few hours a week at various community radio stations, including Cambridge 105.
Whilst I was out of work I received support from a mental health charity to find a new paid job, but I was surprised by which job I would end up doing.
The presenting and production work I did over that period gave me a reason to wake up in the morning because I was doing something I loved. Radio. I only shared my health issues with a few close friends at the station and family members, but it was those individuals who supported me and I’m thankful to.
Do I think depression has affected my progress in the industry? Yes and no. I believe in being honest in any application, whether to a local commercial station or national broadcaster. On the application form where it says ‘Do you suffer from any health problems’, I have no qualms writing that I’ve previously suffered from depression in the box. I’m no longer embarrassed by it. I strongly believe any worthy employer would take me on because of my skills and what I can bring to a job and being honest wouldn’t have a negative impact on my application. However, I do believe there is often quite a lot of stigma still attached to certain health problems – and depression is one of them. I’m still seeking a fully paid role in radio and am optimistic one day, it will happen.
Now in 2015, I’m through that period lasting three (long) years and came out of it learning something very important – you should never be shy talking about your problems, whether it be to a trusted friend, family member or work colleague. You are a person after all. I’m now 28 and love my life, especially spending any free time with my girlfriend Lilly.
As well as my involvement with Cambridge 105, I now work part time for the same mental health charity that supported me through those three years – helping other service users who are also affected by mental health problems. A job I never expected to do, but love.
Suicide is the most common cause of death in UK men under 35. I’d urge anyone in the radio sector who thinks they’re reaching a low point to go to their GP. Likewise, if you see a loved one or a friend who’s just not right – talk to them and advise them too seek support. I hope my story being made public will spur others on to find help.”
Matt can be heard on Cambridge 105 every Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon from 1pm-4pm.