Judith runs London Marathon to support Students Against Depression

The spectacular view of the Welsh mountains near Treorchy on a training ride in April 2013. The tough cycle up was certainly worth it for the view and the joy of zooming back down.

The spectacular view of the Welsh mountains near Treorchy on a training ride in April 2013. The tough cycle up was certainly worth it for the view and the joy of zooming back down.

A Bristol student is running the London Marathon to support the website which helped her overcome debilitating depression.

Judith Robinson, 24, credits the Students Against Depression site for giving her the confidence to carry on during some of her darkest moments.

Now enjoying life for the first time in many years, Judith is running the marathon on April 13 to raise funds and awareness for the site and the charity which runs it, the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust.

Judith, approaching the end of a two year maths MSc at Bristol University, said: “I’ve been depressed as long as I can remember, but my mum always dealt with it.”

Then, when she was 19 years old, her mum died of cancer.

“When my mum died, my dad and I ended up leaning on each other. My dad had to really think about my depression for the first time, just as it was becoming much more acute.”

Her depression affected every aspect of her life as a maths undergraduate at Oxford University. “I felt like I was crazy,” she said.

“I felt like I was sad all the time, I felt like I was letting my friends down when I didn’t feel capable of going out.

“At the end of third year at university, a lot of my friends were going out celebrating and I couldn’t do it.”

Judith was only diagnosed with clinical depression 18 months after her mother died, when she went to see her GP on an unrelated matter.

“I sat down, and she asked me how I was, and I burst into tears. I’d been having suicidal thoughts. The first time I’d tried to kill myself I was 13.

“But I never connected any of it. Until I met this wonderful GP.”

With her doctor’s help, Judith embarked on “a plan to make me feel like myself again”.

It has been a long and difficult road. The move to Bristol meant leaving behind her friends and settling in to a strange city.

A refinement to her medication and cognitive behavioural therapy have both helped. But Judith singles out the Students Against Depression website for playing a key part in her ongoing recovery.

“I only found out about it a year ago when I was 23 – ten years after the first time I tried to kill myself, and three years after I was first diagnosed,” Judith revealed.

“And it’s brilliant. It contains the most cohesive and coherent explanations and discussions about depression that I’ve seen anywhere.”

Students Against Depression, which launched nine years ago, offers practical, clinically-proven strategies for overcoming depression.

It includes a bank of stories written by students who share their experience of managing day to day with depression and anxiety.

Twenty thousand unique visitors a month access the site’s resources, which cover subjects including depression warning signs, self-help strategies and surviving suicidal thoughts.

Judith said: “The most useful thing was the site making me feel like I wasn’t the only one. I felt like no one would ever understand how I felt – and I didn’t want anyone to know anyway, because they’d think I was crazy.

“But I looked at Students Against Depression and it gave me the confidence to talk to my dad and help him to understand.

“It allowed me to ground myself a little bit more, and realise I wasn’t going crazy – that I wasn’t the only one.”

Judith has now started her own blog on the site, and with the support of her loving family and a few close friends is making progress.

“In the last six months I’ve finally started to actually get to live and enjoy things again.”

She is running the London Marathon to raise money, and crucially, awareness about Students Against Depression.

“I want to publicise the site and help many more people hear about it,” Judith said. “I could have done with it so much earlier in my life.”

Sport has always been important to her. “Whenever I was stressed, my mum would always send me out on a run.”

She took part in her first half marathon “on Mother’s Day in 2010, three months after my mum died. I cried for almost all of it.”

Judith has completed the London Marathon once before, raising funds for Arthur Rank Hospice in Cambridge which looked after her mum.

Since then she has represented Great Britain in her age category at the triathlon amateur world championships, and she has recently qualified for the Half Ironman event in Mallorca in October.

“I love triathlon. I just survive the swim. I love being on the bike and the run and seeing what I can do.”

Exercise has been a big factor in combating her depression, Judith said. “If I’ve been for a run in the morning I’ll be able to focus much better at work. At the weekend I can go for a long cycle ride, then I sleep better.

“It’s great, I can just get out and escape.”

• To donate to Judith’s London Marathon fundraising effort, visit her Just Giving page http://www.justgiving.com/JudithRobinson14
• Support Judith via Twitter, using the hashtag #WeCanTackleIt