It was only after my father died that I realised how much my mother must have sheltered me from his illness. He’d struggled with bipolar disorder throughout his life. In 2009, he reached a point that was insurmountable and he ended his life. I was sixteen and I didn’t see it coming.
After he died, I went into isolation. I retreated into my bedroom – it became my safe space, my shell. I remained there for a long time, watching endless TV programmes and barely speaking to anyone.
I was later diagnosed with manic depression.
It took a wonderful relationship with my mum and my friends to get me through the toughest times. But I believe people shouldn’t require an amazing support network to recover from mental illness, we need to find medications that work so well people are able to overcome the symptoms on their own.
I think there must be a cure out there for bipolar disorder and depression. They’re conditions of the brain and the brain exists, we’re not dealing with something totally abstract. Surely once we know more about it, we can uncover the mechanisms that are going wrong and find drugs to fix them? It might be 50 or 100 years’ time – but we have to keep looking. Science for mental health needs the same respect in society as science for other conditions.
I spent years being given different drugs that didn’t work – I must have had 12 different types before finally finding a combination that’s effective for me. This is too common, the lack of science into mental health means it’s still so trial-and-error. I think moving forward, we need to fund research that means medication can be personalised to people.
I used to think there was no future for me, but now I see that there is one. I’ve reached a level of stability and there are good days and there are bad days – but it’s manageable.
I’m finally in a place where I’m able to marry the thing I really love in the world, which is filmmaking, to the thing I care passionately about: mental health.
I’m making a short film called Grasslands, it has two characters in it: Frankie and Noah. Noah is depressed and struggling with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, Frankie is his girlfriend. They live entirely for each other.
It’s semi-autobiographical, there are scenes where Noah is battling his thoughts in his bedroom, separating himself from his family – I’ve been there.
When people watch the film I want them to come away with an openness and understanding about how mental illness can affect people on a personal level.
Find out more about Harry’s film on the Grasslands Film website.
Last updated: 15 March 2018