A Chesterfield man who has grappled with mental illness for more than three decades wants to shake off stigma and ‘raise awareness with fun’ as he brings his new stall to the town’s market.
Lee Waterhouse, 43, has been gifted the stall from Chesterfield Borough Council and will be giving away free rubber ducks and balloons tomorrow (Saturday, July 13) to show he’s ‘mentally ill, not quackers’.
Lee said: “I am not taking donations. This is purely a mentally ill person wanting to raise awareness with fun.
“It’s about getting out there in public and tackling misconceptions.
“I can say hello, here I am. I have a mental illness, but I’m not scary. I can have fun. I can have a laugh.
“I’m hoping this is the start of something- what hopefully will be the beginning of a peer-to-peer support group, but we’ll see.”
Lee has been battling severe depression and anxiety for 33 years.
He can pinpoint the exact moment he realised something was wrong.
“I was eight-years-old,” he said,” and sat at my desk at school, trying to hurt myself with a pencil.
“When I was 13, my grandma took her own life. This would have been 30 odd years ago when there was little to no help available for people, like my grandma, who were struggling.”
Lee has been hospitalised several times and tried a myriad of different medications.
“The only thing that actually helped me was personal development,” he said.
“I watched a lot of videos on YouTube about this, mostly about emotional intelligence.
“My problem is I tend to go over the top with my emotions, which has caused a lot of problems for my family and friends over the years.
“I’ve learnt to control my emotions myself and live and be happy with my disability.”
It’s apt in a society where people are increasingly turning to social media and volunteer support groups due to cuts in mental health funding, says Lee.
“Once I had to be taken to a hospital in Harrogate via ambulance as there were no beds left in Chesterfield,” he added.
“It was a long way away, so nobody could visit me. That’s just one example of that.”
Lee is hoping residents will come up for a chat or try their hand at hook a duck.
He’ll be joined by his 11-year-old daughter Abigale, who’s been inspired by her dad’s journey so much she’s become a mental health ambassador in Chesterfield schools, talking to other pupils about wellbeing and mindfulness.
Lee, who’ll be around from 10.30am to 4pm, will also be streaming the event live at twitch.tv/FuzzyDucksTV for anyone who can’t make it in person.
For more information, click here.