To everyone around him, his life seemed perfect; he was young, handsome and was enjoying a flourishing career on television. But, for Caerphilly-born Matt Johnson, black clouds hung over him every day; he was suffering from depression and in 2009 he came close to suicide.
“On the inside I was numb,” says Matt, the 34-year-old presenter who has become a familiar presenter on national television in programmes such as This Morning. “I was in a very dark place. I felt that everything was against me, and that the world would be a better place without me.”
As part of a week of programmes on S4C to encourage discussion about mental health, Matt told his story in the programme Matt Johnson: Iselder a Fi on S4C on Wednesday May 10.
For years, he hid his depression from everyone, along with the fact that he had considered taking his own life. Talking openly about his problems was the first step in learning how to live with depression.
Matt said: “It took a while for me to talk honestly about how I felt. And for someone who gets paid to talk every day – that’s completely nuts. But talking about your feelings is different, and although it’s very hard, it was the best thing I ever did.”
Four years after that dark period, Matt decided to speak publicly about his depression and his battle with the bottle, in an interview with a national magazine and then in conversation with his colleagues on ITV’s This Morning.
Speaking in August 2013, he told fellow presenters Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langford how an accident in his early 20s, which shattered his cheekbone, nose and jaw, had sent his confidence spiralling.
He said: “It was quite a worrying experience for me. I was scared for the first time in my life. I thought I was invincible.”
He even admitted that his illness was a major factor in the breakdown of his relationship with BBC presenter Alex Jones.
Things came to a head at Christmas 2009 when he was staying at his parents’ Spanish fourth-floor apartment alone.
He went out onto the balcony and thought about jumping. A sudden realisation on that night meant Matt began to recognise his depression and accept that all was not right.
Matt now feels passionately about encouraging others to speak honestly about mental health.
In 2014 he became an ambassador for the charity Mind, which aims to raise awareness and understanding about mental health problems, and Matt’s focus is on eradicating the stigma among young men.
For the programme, Matt also talked to his father, Gary, about his experiences of living with depression for 20 years. His words sum up how easy it is to hide, or not notice, the symptoms.
Gary said: “You haven’t got a cut to put a plaster on. You haven’t got a broken leg to put a cast on. You are invisibly suffering.”
Matt Johnson: Iselder a Fi is available to watch on iPlayer.