Speakers Corner Interview

From Army to Artist: The Stewart Hill Q&A

We caught up with Stewart recently here…

You talk very candidly about your injuries and the effect it had you and on those around you; the challenges with depression during your recovery. How long did it take mentally to get to where you are now?

For the first year after my injury, I was positive about my recovery as I did not understand the impact of the brain injury on my life: do a few press ups, go for some runs, get fit again, and all would be well. I did not notice the problems with my brain until I experienced difficulties. If you’re missing a leg, you know immediately you cannot walk, but there is nothing explicit if you’re missing part of the brain.

My mood continued to drop the more I realised I could not match what I was able to do before – I was exhausted every time I used my brain. Reluctantly, I admitted to my therapist that I needed anti-depressants (the term depression was anathema to me), but I became more depressed over the next couple of years as I discovered more of my new limitations.

It was not until 2013/14, some 4-5 years later, that I began to improve my mood and my perceived quality of life.

You’ve said that you changed your views on depression from being a weakness (before the accident) and just being a case of ‘pulling yourself together’ to understanding it as a very real and personal issue. Having witnessed both viewpoints, what do you think the obstacles are to the stigma around depression being lifted?

It’s as simple as the expectation that a ‘man’ should not be depressed. I was the strong one in my family, I had a role in protecting my family, could not be the one who was struggling mentally. Being in the military compounded this view; the culture that depression is a weakness and one should just ‘get a grip’. Dare I write it, but the main stigma is that it’s not manly to be depressed, it’s not what men do…supposedly.

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