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BBC Breakfast: Dan Walker tells Brian Conley ‘goodbye’

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Appearing on a celebrity version of the ITV hit game show Catchphrase tonight, in a bid to win money for a chosen charity, it was back in 1998 after losing his beloved father, that Conley fell into depression. Suffering from depression led Conley to rely on antidepressants for nearly 15 years, whilst also always being tempted by alcohol. Yet, taking aldactone with low blood pressure Conley was able to face his demons and use counselling to deal with his grief.

Speaking about his depression back in 2017, the star said: “If you have anxiety, people always want to drink to relieve that flame, but that’s like putting fire out with petrol because when you wake up in the morning you will have much more anxiety than ever before.

“It was like, ‘You’re a champagne bottle, you’ve been trying to push it down and have to let out those emotions and learn to cry’. I hadn’t.

“I was never an [alcoholic], but it was always there. It was in the corner, ‘Let’s have a social drink tonight’, and I thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore’,” he told the Mirror.

The NHS explains that depression is more than a feeling of unhappiness or feeling fed up for a few days. Individuals who feel persistently sad for weeks or months rather than just a few days are often suffering from clinical depression. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, one in five people will be affected by depression at some point in their lives.

Although mental health affects everyone differently, the most common symptoms of depression can affect you both physically and psychologically.

Psychological symptoms typically include:

  • Continuous low mood or sadness
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Feeling tearful
  • Feeling guilt-ridden
  • Feeling irritable and intolerant of others
  • Having no motivation or interest in things
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions
  • Not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • Feeling anxious or worried
  • Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself.

Whereas physical symptoms include:

  • Moving or speaking more slowly than usual
  • Changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)
  • Constipation
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Lack of energy
  • Low sex drive (loss of libido)
  • Changes to your menstrual cycle
  • Disturbed sleep – for example, finding it difficult to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning.

Other individuals can also struggle socially, often avoiding eye contact or neglecting hobbies and former interests.

Drinkaware states that alcohol is a depressant, and acts to alter the delicate balance of the chemicals within the brain. At first alcohol can make individuals feel confident and relaxed, but after large amounts these pleasant effects are often replaced by negative emotions such as depression, anxiety or anger.

Antidepressant medication should never be mixed with alcohol, as they tend to increase the risk of relapse or can make depression symptoms worse.

For Conley, 15 years of antidepressants failed to help his mental health, however, when he stopped taking them, during his appearance on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! in 2012, his health took a worrying turn.

The star lost a stone in weight over 10 days, and was soon hospitalised with exhaustion and malnutrition, meaning he couldn’t take the antidepressants.

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A post shared by Brian Conley (@realbrianconley)

“The doctors said I shouldn’t have come off them so quickly but you are meant to take them with food,” the star explained.

“I’m fine now. It was a glitch. I started taking them three months after my dad died. I needed them at the time. I want everyone to know: if you’re going through something difficult, if you put yourself out there and get help you will conquer it.

“I don’t know why I was still on them 13 years later. But I thought I should have something to fluff me up a bit. Like a lot of people, I thought that as I felt really good it might’ve been down to what I was taking.”

After relying on the medication, Conley decided to use other techniques to help his mental health. So he soon started to see a therapist regularly. The star also used mindfulness techniques and breathing exercises to cope with both anxiety and depression.

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A post shared by Brian Conley (@realbrianconley)

“To help me sleep and things like that, I do go through certain things I have learnt with mindfulness. Focusing on your body… it really is about breathing, staying in the moment,” Conley added.

“Anxiety is the future, depression is the past, happiness is right here, right now. If I wasn’t in a good place, I couldn’t do what I do now.”

The NHS explains that talking treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are effective to help you understand your thoughts. The therapy concentrates mostly on how you can change the way you think, feel and behave.

It is recommended by the health body that individuals have sessions with a therapist once a week or once every two weeks, with each session lasting 30 to 60 minutes. Individuals affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans free on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org) or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk).

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