Fern Britton credits exercise with helping her through depression

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  • TV presenter Fern Britton has revealed that exercise has helped her during her struggle with depression.

    The 58-year-old told the Daily Mail, ‘Exercise is a mood-lifter and helps me cope with life’s stresses.’

    ‘Two summers ago, my daughter Winnie and I cycled from Reading to Cornwall with friends, stopping off at pubs and B&Bs, which was a lovely experience.’

    Fern, who regularly completes charity bike rides for the Genesis Research Trust, of which she is a patron, said, ‘I’m a bit rough round the edges, with wrinkles and bosoms down to my knees. But that’s how 60 should look. I’m grateful I’ve got a healthy body that doesn’t hurt and can still ride 65 miles a day. I’m hoping that at 70, I will still be active.’

    She added that since taking up cycling, she has not had to take antidepressants for several years, although she wouldn’t hesitate to go back on them if her mental health deteriorated.

    It’s not the former This Morning host has spoken out about her long-term battle with depression, revealing previously that she has been suffering with the illness since her twenties.

    Fern has experienced a number of traumatic events over the years, including a sexual assault at age 21, which she didn’t report because she felt in some way it was her own fault, and several gruelling rounds of IVF in her late 30s, as well as an extremely public divorce.

    The fertility treatment in particular proved to be difficult to cope with – Fern told the Telegraph in 2015, ‘I had four cycles of IVF, which was very grim. From 34 to the age of 36. By the fourth round I’d decided that was it, and I couldn’t do it any more, and then of course that was the one that worked.’

    ‘You pin your hopes on it, and you go through all of the horrible injections, which I got very good at doing myself. But it messes up your thinking process and your emotions.’

    Happily, during her first marriage to TV executive Clive Jones, Fern managed to have twin sons, Jack and Henry, through IVF, and also conceived a daughter, Grace, naturally – but this wasn’t the end of her tribulations.

    The pair had a difficult divorce, and Fern, who later remarried and had another daughter, Winifred, with second husband Phil Vickery, says that this was an especially ‘bleak’ time for her. At her lowest, the mum-of-four even contemplated committing suicide.

    Fern with second husband Phil Vickery. ‘I’d rather spend my time with him than anybody else,’ she says.

    ‘I remember very clearly you know, when they were all little and sitting around the table, all shiny faced and having their supper, and then I’d be like, ‘Right, you’ve got everything you want. Lovely! Now I’m just going to pop upstairs and kill myself’
    Fern is now feeling much more positive, but she is also realistic about managing her depression in the future.

    ‘I came off anti-depressants last year,’ she explained. ‘But I am fully expecting to go back on them at some stage because I know I will have another episode.’

    ‘Over the years, you learn how to get help and how to explain it to people. You get the vocabulary. And instead of running away from it, you stand still and let it run through you. Or you can run towards it and get through it a bit quicker. That’s my theory.’

    If you have been affected by Fern’s story or need help with depression, visit www.mind.org.uk for information and support.