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Dr Chris Manning on his personal experiences with depression

1st April 2015

Dr Chris Manning MRCGP (Chair of Action for NHS Wellbeing) shares his personal experiences with depression.

Dr Chris Manning

Dr Chris Manning

I retired as a GP in 1999, having had a severe bout of major depression in 1986 and, wishing to work in the third sector, in response to the many thousands of consultations I had with individuals, when I knew that so much of their grief and distress, before I ‘medicalised’ it (as accurately and carefully as I could), were entirely explicable given their work-home contexts and predicaments. Because of my own experience, I realised that doctors are not excepted from the immutable laws of nature and that we are “ALL people first and foremost”.

Over the last two decades, I have done my best to draw on and be honest about my personal experience of depression as a physical illness affecting my mental functions (and much else), and to highlight the considerable potential for poorly prepared and distressed doctors to follow the same paths as those they care for. Beyond the individual experiences, there are the undoubted causes and, if I am honest, I am frequently enraged by the way in which our country wastes good and caring people; I was truly appalled, for example, by what happened to decimate the health visitor profession.

All of these issues combine to inform and drive the collaborative activities with which I am involved and that serve as the perfect antidote to personal melt-down! The most recent of these is the convening of a ‘virtual’ web-enabled (Basecamp) Action for NHS Wellbeing (AfNHSW) network of similarly concerned and active folks to enable sharing and collation of activities, resources, articles, thinking and mutual support. There are some 100 of us now and various joint ventures are in progress, including the involvement of those developing compassionate resilience resources to be placed on the iHV website; a GP burnout survey in PULSE magazine; courses for medical students, Foundation Year doctors and young GPs in mindfulness and biofeedback-related self-care. We have also held 3 face-to-face network meetings in London and have another event planned for early April 2015 that will involve a trip to Whitstable, with workshops (Frameworks4Change) and a walk to one of the network’s beach-huts for tea! We are also increasingly collaborating with The Founders Network and now have a Twitter account: @afnhsw

Here is what ‘Basecamper’ – which seems to be the term people like to use to describe their ‘membership’ of the network – consultant surgeon Eunice Minford said about her experience of the network:

“It is clear to all of us that what we currently have is not working and that change is called for, a different way is needed. We may not all agree on the exact nature of that change and what is required, but the advantage of Basecamp is that we get to hear and exchange views on many different topics and to expand our horizons beyond our own perspective….It is a growing, evolving and organic collection of people who participate to the level they want to. Emails can be turned off if anyone’s inbox feels too overloaded, giving control and autonomy to each individual. However, it is important that we do not become comfortable with our sharings and exchanges, and think that that is enough. As a group we have a stronger voice than the individual and we need to make use of that voice, to use the collective power of our expression to increase awareness, and influence both the medical and political establishments in a direction that puts people first in a way that is real and tangible and doesn’t just pay politically correct lip-service to the notion.”

If you’d like to join the network, please just email me: [email protected]

Dr Chris Manning MRCGP