The actor and writer said during a talk on depression at the Hay Festival yesterday that he had “done whole episodes of QI where I have wanted to die… My lips are moving but I do not want to be.”
Fry, who suffers from bipolar disorder, said it was “unreasonable” for him to be unhappy. “I have had one of the luckiest careers of my generation. There is no one I have not met, nothing I have not done. I am overpraised and overpaid. I have no reason to be unsatisfied with my life and all it has given me, indeed most of the time I am happy – but there are times when I want to slash my throat.”
The comedian and actor, who suffers from bipolar disorder, said he has also attended parties at palaces, met with Presidents or been in a box at Lords but found himself “unable to get any pleasure”.
In a ground-breaking event in aid of the Samaritans at the Telegraph Hay Festival, Fry joined fellow comedian Ruby Wax and gardener Monty Don to talk about their personal experiences of depression.
“When we talk about depression we are not taking about being in a bit of a bad mood where a nice bit of poetry and nature can help, I am talking about being a de-energised lump,” said Fry, who in the past presented the documentary “The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive’.
Although he is seen as a “national treasure”, has a loving partner, family friends and 30 Godchildren “whom I adore”, he can never feel truly happy, as like many people he suffers from a “disease that will never go away” – depression.
Fry, who is president of mental health charity Mind, pointed out that one in four people suffer from mental illness and called for more openness and less stigmatisation. He said workplaces should not be allowed to sack people for being depressed.
Most of all he urged people to keep an eye on children, who benefit from counselling at an early age.
“Think carefully about how happy your children are. Observe their lives and make sure they have a route to talk.”
Ruby Wax said celebrities talking openly about depression can help in the same way that ‘coming out’ as a gay person helped young people feel more comfortable with their own sexuality. She also called for more communication via websites, schools and in the arts to give comfort to people that others are in similar situations and offer solutions that may help.
But she was careful to point out that depression is not a romantic condition just because it is suffered by celebrities. “If people get the idea it is the cool minority, it becomes the new black. But it is one of the most morbid disorders there is. I would give both legs never to experience this feeling again.”
But Fry, who suffers from bipolar, and described feeling manic highs as well as “I take the angels and the devils. It is part of who I am.”
Monty Don said he has found gardening and being outside have helped lift him out of depression. He urged people to be kind not only to those people who are depressed, but those who look after them. “If you wanted to tell the truth, the real sufferers in mental illness are the care givers,” he said.