Mental ill-health was the focus of the annual Oxford University Disability Lecture 2016, which was given by Professor Linda Gask and introduced by Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson.

Professor Gask, who is Emerita Professor of Primary Care Psychiatry at the University of Manchester, spoke about her experiences as a psychiatrist and academic who has battled with anxiety and depression, and how this has affected her life and work. She also drew on her own research to explore the reasons why people suffering from depression often find it difficult to seek help.

‘My life has been profoundly affected by my experiences of mental ill-health,” said Professor Gask. “But I believe this has made me a more capable and empathic doctor, and helped me to become a more enlightened teacher and researcher.”

Professor Gask went on to discuss how depression is understood and experienced and the different approaches to treatment that are available, including the important role which mental health professionals can play.

“Emotional distress, depression, and suicidal thoughts are widely experienced in the setting of a university, but frequently not addressed. Despite what some people may say, asking for and receiving help is really nothing to be ashamed of,” she added.

Caroline Moughton, Staff Disability Advisor at Oxford, said: 'I’m delighted that Professor Gask was willing to give this talk.  We need more stories about the positive contribution that people living with mental ill-health can make to our society.  Staff and students with their own experience of mental ill-health will be inspired by Professor Gask’s honest and thought-provoking account. I hope that it will encourage them to start their own conversations about mental ill-health and to seek out support.'

The annual Disability Lecture at Oxford celebrates the achievements of people with disabilities and aims to raise awareness of disability, including “hidden” disabilities such as mental ill-health.

A podcast of Professor Gask’s talk, with transcript, can be found here.

Professor Gask’s recent book, The Other Side of Silence: A Psychiatrist’s Memoir of Depression, is available now from Vie Books.

More information on student health and welfare at Oxford can be found here, while advice for Oxford staff with disabilities is available here.