A COVID sufferer has spoken about how art therapy has helped her to overcome mental health-related illnesses during the pandemic lockdown.

Debbie Lowe, 28, is recovering from having the coronavirus but was already suffering from deep-rooted mental health problems stemming from childhood. She has struggled to overcome depression since the age of nine

Debbie, from Calne, said: “My passion is to encourage people to speak out about mental health related illnesses.

“I have been living with depression for 19 years and I experienced a lot of negativity regarding mental illness.

“I have been incredibly lucky to find the help that I need from the support of my partner and mental health services.

“In the past year I have struggled with depression throughout the global pandemic.

“Whilst wrestling through depression I lost a lot of people along the way and found myself isolated even more from the world and unable to explain what was happening inside my own head.”

But Debbie, who graduated from Bath Spa University with a BA degree in fine art, says that painting has helped her to overcome her illness.

“In June 2020, my partner Steven Marsh bought me an easel which led to endless paintings,” said Debbie, whose father William, who works for Wiltshire Council and is a foster carer. She also has an elder brother, Daniel, 31.

“I read up about the use of art therapy helping with depression and discovered that it helps a lot of people. I began painting my emotions and over time I found myself again.

“After a lot of thinking I set up an account on the social media platform Instagram, to show my paintings. By doing this I found so many people who were in similar circumstances as me and found that depression was not something that you need to hide from the world.

“Since then, I have gained 4,500 followers, sold a number of paintings but more importantly found the confidence to talk. Painting has helped me to find a way of expressing myself. I receive so many messages from people telling me how brave I am because I have started to talk so openly about it.”

Miss Lowe contracted the Covid-19 disease in mid-February and says: “My chest still hurts and I am still coughing and wheezing. I found myself getting out of breath and I could not taste anything.”

She had only just started a new job in Devizes when she was diagnosed with Covid-19 and paints at home in her spare time using acrylics, oils, watercolours and Indian inks.

Figures from June 2020 show that almost one in five adults (19.2 per cent) were likely to be experiencing some form of depression during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Miss Lowe added: “There has been an alarming amount of stigma regarding mental health-related illnesses because sadly, a lot of people do not understand it.

“I hope that more people are no longer ashamed about talking about it and find a way of expressing themselves too.”