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‘The Recovery Letters’ Gives People With Depression Hope From Those Who’ve Walked In Their Shoes

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When you’re in the darkest moments of depression it can be difficult to imagine a day when you’ll feel happy again.

But a touching project is allowing people who have survived these feelings to tell others “things will get better”. 

The project, titled ‘The Recovery Letters’, allows people who are recovering from depression help those who are currently suffering and possibly considering suicide. 

The letters are filled with personal anecdotes and moving words of support, such as: “You’re not bad or unlovable, just ill. I’m holding your hand, I’ll walk with you.” 

Lilly Roadstones via Getty Images

The project was started by James Withey, who first thought of the idea in 2011 while staying at Maytree, a London-based “sanctuary for the suicidal”.

He developed ‘The Recovery Letters’ a few months later, after spending time in a psychiatric hospital. 

“During a lot of my crisis care I hadn’t been told that recovery from depression was possible and it seemed impossible that I could ever recover,” he tells The Huffington Post UK.

“People would suggest I read huge self-help books on depression and I couldn’t read a sentence. What I wanted was to be able to read that recovery was possible from people who had experienced what I was going through.”

Today, Withey posts submissions from survivors onto ‘The Recovery Letters’ website, which now receives more than 60,000 hits each year from people all over the world.

All letters are free to submit and access, as the aim is to help the most amount of people possible. 

“The intention is to try and alleviate the all encompassing feelings of hopelessness that depression brings,” Withey explains.

“Depression tells you that you will never get better, never smile again, never see the point of living and I wanted an antidote to the lies depression tells you. The letters are small shots of hope.”

James Withey
James Withey.

Withey is currently calling for ‘Recovery Letter’ submissions to be featured in a book, which is due out in 2017 with Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

He describes the response he’s received to the letters as “incredible and overwhelming” and says he often receives emails from people who have been helped by the project.

“People have said the letters have helped them survive through the night, it’s humbling and amazing,” he says.

Read two of the letters below, or visit The Recovery Letters website to see more of the submissions.

Useful websites and helplines:

Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 UK and ROI – this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)

Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393. 

Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@getconnected.org.uk

HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41.

Maytree is a sanctuary for the suicidal in north London in a non-medical setting. For help or to enquire about a stay, call 020 7263 7070. 

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