Baddiel: 'You can be depressed for no reason'


David Baddiel has spoken of his guilt at suffering from depression, a condition that also affected his grandfather, who survived the Holocaust.

In discussion with Guardian executive editor and JC columnist Jonathan Freedland, the comedian and writer told the 150 guests at the Jewish Association for Mental Illness's annual champagne tea that it was tempting to connect depression with tragedy.

"My grandfather was a wealthy industrialist in Germany, interned on the Isle of Man for two years. After the war, he was in and out of Fulbourn, a mental hospital near Cambridge, for the rest of his life with depression.

"And part of me thinks: 'Yes, of course he was depressed, because he had these terrible things happen to him'."

But, Mr Baddiel went on: "What you have to realise is that depression doesn't work that way. You can be depressed for no apparent reason, or for what appears to be a small reason, or you can be depressed because your family was murdered in the Holocaust.

People are now talking about mental health

"Depression takes no prisoners - it's really all about the predisposition. We have to move away from this idea that you can only be depressed if something really tragic has happened to you." He himself had battled depression for decades and "there are times when I think it's still there, in the background".

Mr Baddiel is a former patron of the Campaign Against Living Miserably, an initiative to prevent male suicide. He reflected that, because men often struggled to express their emotions, suicide "feels like a noble, heroic act.

"But that's misguided and leads to Isis. Young men don't feel like they have an ideal to live up to and they end up being suicide bombers."

However, Jonny Benjamin - who was persuaded by a passer-by not to commit suicide by jumping off Waterloo Bridge - said that attitudes surrounding mental health had improved.

"In the last few years, I've seen a real shift in the Jewish community. People are talking about and engaging with mental health for the first time - and that's down to Jami."

Last year's tea was addressed by Natalie Gotel, who spoke of her struggle with depression and anxiety.

She has since gone back to university to study social work and told guests: "I am still facing many demons which, before Jami, I could not overcome. But since joining Jami I have the tools to battle them."

Beaming broadly, she added: "I also now have an amazingly bright and handsome boyfriend.

"Jami had much to do with this victory, too."

Held at the Savoy, the tea raised more than £200,000.

The JC Podcast: "We all have periods in our life when our well-being is challenged" - Mental health in the Jewish community

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