Mark was in London taking part in the filming of a documentary, and this gave us the chance to meet in person for the first time. I’d followed and admired his campaigning work for many years, and had narrowly missed meeting him on a couple of occasions, but this was the first time we had managed to actually meet face to face. There was a lot of filming to do, so we only had limited time to talk off-camera, but it was great to have the chance to meet him at last.
Mark brought along a copy of his new book, Daddy Blues. I read it this weekend. It is an autobiographical account of his experience. In it he writes about the birth of his son and his struggles with that experience. He also writes about his wife, Michelle’s, experience of postnatal depression and Mark’s own experience of mental health problems, including depression.
It’s an open-hearted and challenging account of trying to understand what is happening when you don’t have much information. This relates both to the experience of childbirth and also seeing someone you love experience depression. It is so important for all of us to hear this kind of first-hand experience. The experience of mental health problems is so very personal, and people are often reluctant to talk to others (indeed Mark writes about this in the book). Consequently, when others have the same experience they may never have heard or read anything to give them a clue that many others go through similar things.
As well as writing movingly about his own experience, Mark’s book also highlights how complex the experience of mental health problems can be. For example, his own experience could be described as depression (and he uses this term), but it also overlaps with experiences of anxiety, heavy use of alcohol and the re-experiencing of traumatic images and memories of his son’s birth. It’s important to be reminded of how these experiences so often overlap and also how important it is for a partner to be supported when someone develops depression (whether that’s a mother or a father).
I’m grateful that Mark Williams has shared his story in a book. It’s a moving and important read. I now have a copy, if you want to borrow it. Better still, buy your own copy and support the important work that Mark and his colleagues and family are doing.
Author: Paul Ramchandani