Kathy Burke has opened up about the depression and suicidal thoughts she had during menopause.
The 58-year-old director, writer, comedian and actress has opened up about the difficult time in her early 50s following her recovery from an illness that left her addicted to steroids. The menopause then led to a deterioration in her mental health, with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) not being an option for her due to the other medications she was taking.
“I started having some pretty dark suicidal thoughts,” she told The Observer.
“I’ve always had bouts of depression, but that was something else entirely. I don’t mind telling you it was pretty scary.”
Burke recalls worrying about who would find her body if she ended her life, but how, after devising a plan to lessen this likely trauma for someone else, she felt a little more stable.
“It was weird, it was kind of, once I made that decision, I could relax…Then the depression started to lift a bit.”
Read more: Carol Vorderman Says Menopause Made Her ‘Suicidal’, But HRT Really Helped Her
Now Burke, who directed Jennifer Saunders in a West End production of Oscar Wilde’s comedy Lady Windermere Fan in 2018, also known for her roles in French and Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous, is now “so glad” she didn’t.
“Oh, but I’m so glad I didn’t kill myself during menopause,” she said.
“It would have been a bit of a shame. But look, that didn’t happen. I made it to the other side, and I’m glad I did.”
Fortunately, more is being done to raise awareness about menopause and the help available thanks to other celebrities like Lisa Snowdon, Davina McCall and Carol Vorderman – who have also “felt suicidal at times” – opening up about their experiences.
Menopause occurs when menstruation stops due to lower hormone levels, usually between the ages of 45 and 55, or sometimes younger. Menopause and perimenopause (when you have symptoms before this stage) can cause physical and mental symptoms. Here’s what you need to know, but whatever you’re going through, it’s important to remember that help is there.
Read more: ‘Really scary’: Davina McCall reveals perimenopause caused ‘overnight’ changes
Symptoms of menopause
Mental health symptoms
According to the NHS, common mental health symptoms can include:
Mood changes, such as low mood, anxiety, mood swings, and low self-esteem
Memory or concentration problems (brain fog)
Physical health symptoms
Common physical symptoms include:
Hot flashes, when you have sudden feelings of hot or cold in the face, neck, and chest that may make you feel dizzy
Difficulty sleeping, which can be the result of night sweats and cause you to feel tired and irritable during the day
Palpitations, when your heartbeat suddenly becomes more noticeable
Worse than usual headaches and migraines
Muscle pain and joint pain
Change in body shape and weight gain
Skin changes, including dry, itchy skin
Vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex
Recurrent Urinary Infections (UTIs)
Symptoms can last for months or years and may change over time.
Read more: Lisa Snowdon says it’s ‘still hard to talk about’ five-year domestic abuse ordeal
Watch: Lisa Snowdon shares her struggles with menopause
The NHS insists that getting advice and help for symptoms early can reduce the impact that perimenopause and menopause can have on your health, relationships and work.
There are lifestyle changes you can make on your own to help, such as eating well, exercising, and taking care of your mental well-being, as well as treatment options available. The main one is HRT, which is the use of estrogen to replace levels in your body during menopause, which can help relieve most symptoms.
Other options available include testosterone gel to reduce libido, mood and energy levels (this is currently not licensed for use in women, but may be prescribed after menopause by a medical specialist ), estrogen for vaginal dryness and discomfort, non-hormonal treatments if you cannot or have chosen not to have HRT, antidepressants to relieve symptoms of depression or anxiety, or cognitive therapy. behavioral (CBT).
Our helpful guide goes over other things you need to know about menopause.
See a GP or nurse if you think you have symptoms of perimenopause or menopause. You can also find your nearest NHS or private menopause specialist on the British Menopause Society website, find an NHS psychological therapies service here, watch videos of women talking about living with menopause here and find more information on this NHS page.
You can find support and advice from The Menopause Charity.
Having suicidal thoughts can be complicated, scary and confusing, but help is there. Check out this page to find out what to expect when chatting with the Samaritans.
For more information on how to support someone with suicidal thoughts, please see this Samaritans page.
You can also call the Samaritans for free now, from any phone, anytime, on 116 123 – a friendly voice will be there to listen – or email email@example.com for a response within 24 hours.
If you think someone is in immediate danger, the fastest way to get help is to call an ambulance on 999.
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