'For me antidepressants are essential, they take the edge off the illness,' says Jarlath McCreanor
Jarlath McCreanor (50) from Crossgar has battled depression for 30 years and says he wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for his medication.
Jarlath (right), who is now a support group facilitator with AWARE, the national depression charity for Northern Ireland, says he has lost count of the number of times he has felt suicidal because of his illness.
An auditor by profession, he has also had to give up his work due to his illness, which struck in his late teens.
He said: "I have been on antidepressants for over 20 years. For me they are a crutch, not a cure - but I know if I didn't have them, I wouldn't be here.
"I would have pulled the pin long ago without them. Antidepressants are essential for me. They take the edge off the illness."
Jarlath describes depression as like living in a fog. He has been through eight years of psychology, which he says helped him to understand his illness better.
But the real breakthrough came when he met others who were battling depression through a support group run by AWARE.
"AWARE is an amazing charity and I started to go to their support groups about five years ago. And since then my journey has not been just as tough," he said.
"I am now a support group facilitator. When you are sitting in a room with 10 other people who know exactly what you are going through because they have experience, that makes such a difference.
"It is a chronic illness and I think more needs to be done in the health service to provide support, and maybe then we won't need as many antidepressants.
"There is a terrible stigma and depression is still the illness talked about in whispers. We need to tackle it for the sake of our young people. "
Siobhan Doherty, chief executive at AWARE, said: "We believe that talking therapies are essential in the treatment of depression.
"Whilst antidepressant medication can be used alongside talking therapies, we believe that they may not always be necessary in the first instance.
"Therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) have been recommended in the treatment of depression.
"At AWARE we offer our Living Life to The Full programme, a group-based CBT programme to people with mild to moderate depression.
"The programme has many benefits and has been described by many as 'lifesaving.'
"We have also introduced mindfulness as an alternative to antidepressant medication into our core services.
"Clinical evidence says that mindfulness reduces stress and anxiety for those with the illness of depression."
She added: "It enables people to learn the skills that prevent the recurrence of depression and is also effective for people who have suffered bouts of depression in the past."