Founder of Royston Depression Alliance opens up about how the group has helped her and others to cope

Angela and Gill are firm friends.

Angela and Gill are firm friends. - Credit: Archant

The founder of a Royston support group for people with depression says members have become ‘a second family’ to her since it was formed five years ago.

Gill Cox set up the town’s branch of the Depression Alliance after battling the illness herself for several years.

She said: “I started the group as I thought: ‘I need to do something about this’. I felt very isolated.”

As there wasn’t really anything available in Royston, Gill applied for local authority support so that she could rent a room in Royston Town Hall, and says she hasn’t looked back since.

“At the first meeting, I had no idea what would happen, but I was blown over – the room was full from the very first meeting.

“I’m delighted that five years later it’s still going strong.”

The format is simple – the meetings are a chance for people with mental health issues to get together and have a chat about anything on their mind.

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The 51-year-old said: “It’s about talking.

“If somebody is feeling really down that day, they get first dibs. Others may want to sit in silence, or somebody else might need a hug. It’s about showing people they aren’t alone.

“We can talk about the difficult stuff.”

The group attracts members from all walks of life and all ages – the oldest is in her eighties, and there are also members in their twenties.

Angela Clark, 65, who has suffered depression all her life has been going to meetings since the the group started.

She said: “If people are feeling a certain way, we understand.

“It’s very difficult to talk to somebody on the level that we do with somebody who has not been through it.”

Members of the group are like a close knit group of friends – they go out for coffees and celebrate each other’s birthdays.

They also offer each other practical support, with trips to the hospital and lifts to appointments.

Gill is looking to help someone set up a support group for partners, family and friends of those living with depression.

She says she has been on both sides of the coin – her mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder – and she grew up looking after her.

“Those who have relatives who live with depression often need support too, in a safe place to express their feelings and frustrations,” said Gill.

The group meets on the first and third Tuesday of the month from 2pm until 4pm.

To find out more email Gill at