In this blog post coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Week, senior creative Neil Ritson speaks honestly about his experiences with mental health struggles while working in the fast-paced creative industry, and how a few words can make a huge difference...

 

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We open as a young twenty-something sits opposite a doctor in a surgery. Tears rolling down his face as he struggles to speak, gasping for breath - we can clearly see he is perplexed by whatever is going on in his head. The doctor passes him a tissue and tries to comfort him, asking him to take a moment. 

 

We seamlessly transition from the young man sitting in the chair at the doctors to see him sitting in the exact same position in a university campus, the hustle and bustle of people around him. He smiles at friends, but we can tell this is hard work and those smiles aren’t exactly what he is feeling

 

VO: Mental health can strike any one of us with absolutely no warning. We are all vulnerable to it. Nobody knows what the person next to us is really feeling. Ask if they are ok.

 

Fade to black.

 

My daily life as a creative tends to be writing scripts like that, only that one is real: that one is me about 12 years ago. I wish it was just a script, not reality. I didn’t see it coming, and I certainly did not know what it was, or how to cope with it. It smacked me out of nowhere, right in the middle of my university degree. The next few years were a real struggle. Deadlines, dissertations and general university life. That was swiftly followed by moving to London, trying to get a job in an agency, being on job seekers, and doing placements paid at £250 a week.

 

I look back at it now and genuinely wonder how I got through it.

 

Cut to 12 years on and I am not only working on my own as a creative (biggup Stefan Van Zoggel, the ‘ex’ partner who helped me through a lot of the daily struggles) and living in a new city in Scotland, but I'm also trying to use my creativity to raise some awareness for mental health. I have (shameless plug) just written a film and some bloody lovely people within the industry have offered to shoot it for free for me. 

As an industry - and just as human beings - we need to realise these issues are there. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others because my god you don’t know what they are going through. They might be just putting a brave face on; I’ve done it, and I still do. But this is something which will be forever with me, I have just learned to cope much better, and to talk about it when I have problems.

It’s not something I am ashamed of and I openly talk about it, and I would love for anyone else suffering to feel the same. The industry is sometimes so focussed on awards, but let me tell you the people who should be winning awards are the ones on a daily struggle with mental health, getting up and battling on, fighting their own thoughts, dealing with deadlines, presentations, pitches and the rest.

 

If that sounds like you, then you’re worth more than a Grand Prix pencil.

 

I’ll leave this post with one thought, and it comes from my Mum. When I first struggled with this, when even getting up was difficult, I received a card in the post from my Mum. Inside was a little piece of paper, and that piece of paper 12 years on is still in my wallet. It said “Keep smiling you are doing great”. Sometimes it is the simplest things that can help and I’ll never forget that letter, or the words.

 

This blog was written by Neil Ritson.