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Mind Your Mental Health: How Havering Mind got me back on stage

PUBLISHED: 17:00 15 January 2016

Ricky Reeve

Ricky Reeve

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The Recorder has launched a major mental health awareness campaign with charity Havering Mind, which will run throughout 2016. Through Mind Your Mental Health we aim to break down the stigma that persists and share advice for analysing and improving the wellbeing of our community. This week we're looking at depression - Emma Lake speaks to Ricky Reeve about his battle with the condition.

Holiday park entertainer Ricky Reeve was used to dazzling crowds from a stage.

But in 2011, aged 25, he fell down a flight of stairs and severely damaged his back and pelvis. Told he would never walk again he spiralled into depression as he confronted the possibility he would be unable to complete even the simplest tasks unaided.

At his lowest point Ricky was depressed, isolated and contemplating suicide. Even as he began to defy doctors’ expectations and walk with the help of a frame, he felt too anxious to leave the house without others to support him.

But almost five years later, thanks to counselling and support from Havering Mind, he is working as a teaching assistant and expecting his second child with fiancee Charlotte Lennon.

Ricky, 30, of Romford, said: “I had gone from the point where I could run everywhere to the point that I could not get out of bed.

“I was thinking, “If my life is going to be this I do not want to be here’.”

Despite beginning to recover from his physical injuries, he continued to feel depressed and anxious.

Ricky said: “By the time I was able to use the walking frame I was scared of the outside. I could not go anywhere without two or three people with me.

“If I got knocked into or touched I would just burst out crying. That had never been me – I was the person hosting cabarets, singing and dancing on stage, not the person unable to look someone in the face.”

Ricky’s parents became frightened for his wellbeing and arranged for a counsellor to visit him at home.

One-on-one counselling prepared him to take the leap of attending group sessions at Havering Mind, which he credits with driving forward his recovery.

He said: “It was humiliating at first, being seen as an invalid – as someone that was restricted and couldn’t do normal things but it was not mentioned. The understanding was there.

“It did not hit me until then how much I really missed people. I felt isolated and I felt low but I hadn’t realised how much I was just missing people.”

Ricky befriended a man with learning difficulties and helped him to complete the tasks set. He said: “I felt useful, I had a use. I could help someone else. I wasn’t the burden.”

In the three years since he began attending Havering Mind’s sessions, Ricky’s life has been transformed.

As well as helping him to socialise and equipping him with the tools to overcome depression, the charity gave him career advice. Ricky is now a teaching assistant and is working towards a full teaching qualification.

He returns to the charity frequently to tell his story and help raise the funds needed to allow it to continue its vital work.

It was for Havering Mind that he returned to the stage in 2014, hosting the charity’s musical fundraiser Mind Aid.

In 2015 he went one step further and impressed audiences with his rendition of Footloose.

He said: “The first year was a huge boost in confidence. The second year I thought I’m going to show me. It was a showcase of the pre-accident me. It was because of Havering Mind that I got a hell of a lot of that me back.”

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