Helping to reduce the social stigma of mental health in Banbury

Comedienne Sheila McMahon is looking to help reduce the social stigma surrounding mental health. NNL-150619-154933001
Comedienne Sheila McMahon is looking to help reduce the social stigma surrounding mental health. NNL-150619-154933001

A comedienne is on a mission to try to reduce the social stigma that surrounds mental health issues as a result of her personal experiences with depression.

Working as a counsellor by day and a stand-up comedian at night, you’d never guess from Sheila McMahon’s professional, confident demeanour that she has suffered from depression so severe that she wanted to commit suicide when she was only seven-years-old.

The 39-year-old moved to Banbury in 2002 and used to work at the Banbury Guardian as an entertainment advertising sales representative. She is now using her counselling experience and sense of humour to educate people about depression so that people can understand more about the condition.

Her debut performance ‘Sheila M.H.S – Mental Health Show’ completely sold out at a Midlands theatre recently, and she has also launched her first book ‘The Power of Knowing You– Learning from the Past.’

In the book, Sheila shares some of the personal childhood experiences that have shaped who she is today. She grew up on a farm in the west of Ireland, where she had a very difficult childhood.

Born with a cleft palate, she had to endure arduous speech lessons and was a victim of bullying for many years. It was an unlikely alliance with amateur dramatics that proved to be the turning point in her life.

She started suffering panic attacks in her mid-twenties and was diagnosed with depression. After seeing a therapist to help her take control of her mental health, Sheila started to understand how the negative behaviours and self-limitations she acquired in her childhood were holding her back and preventing her living the life she wanted.

She is now a qualified psychotherapist and runs her own private practice, counselling clients with mental health issues on a one-to-one basis.

She said: “Statistics suggest that one in four people in the UK suffer from depression or a similar mental health issue. It’s a very dark place to be in, when negative thoughts completely overwhelm you and you struggle to cope with everyday life.

“That’s why I’m so passionate about trying to help others – not just those suffering from depression, but also their family and friends who often don’t understand that someone can’t just ‘snap out’ of depression like they might just ordinarily ‘snap out’ of a bad mood. It’s way more deep-rooted than that.”

Sheila still hopes to achieve her main goal of having her own mental health TV show, and ‘The Power of Knowing You’ is available to buy from Amazon for £12.99.