Denise Robertson

Denise Robertson

From issue 5, Winter 2009

Agony Aunt and novelist Denise Robertson offers some advice on dealing with debt and depression.

Q How did you become an agony aunt?
A I was a happily married mother with a small son and had just a bit of success as a writer when my husband died. To earn a living I wrote articles about what was happening to me – that I was a young widow, a single parent and very hard up. As a result people started to write to me about their problems and I answered them. Eventually a radio station asked me to answer people’s question live on air. From there I went to BBC Breakfast Time and eventually This Morning, where I’ve been for 21 years.

Q What are the most common problems people talk to you about?
A People’s problems haven’t changed much over the years – loneliness, heartbreak through bereavement or relationship break-up, family disputes, alcohol, drug or money problems or problems at work.

Q What advice would you give people who are struggling in the recession?
A The most important thing is to accept that recessions end, and then you can begin to win back what you’ve lost. I lost the roof over my head when I had five dependent children, but with time and hard work I got it all back. Your doctor can help with depression and stress and there are many helplines, so make the most of all the support that’s out there, such as the National Debtline (0808 808 4000), Consumer Credit Line (0800 138 1111)
and Citizens Advice.

Q Have you ever suffered from depression and how did you deal with it?
A I’ve twice suffered from depression, once as an adolescent and once thirty years ago. The second time, when it was severe depression, I got medical help. It took time to get over it, but eventually I was fine and it’s never come back. If it did, I’d be sure to reach out for help in the knowledge that it can be beaten and I would get better.

Q Any advice on keeping yourself upbeat when things are tough?
A However tight the budget, keep a little something by for an occasional treat. I once saved twenty-pence pieces until we had enough for a night out. Have someone you can confide in when things are at their worst, like a close friend or a helpline, but try not to make the hard times a continual topic of discussion. Above all, have a realistic plan for the way out. Moving forward even an inch a day will give you the uplift you need to get through.