The Hope of Doctor Who (World Mental Health Day)

Doctor Who has always been an escape for many. Feeling down, stressed or anxious? All you have to do is jump in the TARDIS and fly away to another world, leaving yours behind for a while. In fact, if you look at most people in the fandom, you’ll notice everyone has their own problems they’re trying to forget about. In a world of perfect Instagram lives and hateful Twitter trolls, it’s incredibly hard to find a place in society where you can be yourself. So what is it about Doctor Who that so many gravitate towards to help them cope with their mental health?

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As a child, I grew up jumping from obsession to obsession, always wanting something I could turn to. I didn’t have a father around, and my mother worked until her health deteriorated and she couldn’t do it any longer. I didn’t realise at the time, but I must have used these obsessions as a coping mechanism, the world around me being a confusing place.

In 2006 I discovered Doctor Who, and immediately transfixed myself in its universe. I couldn’t believe that its main character, Rose Tyler, lived on a council estate with her mother, just like me! They had no man around the house either. She worked in a shop, wore typical teenage clothes, and was completely normal. This must have resonated with 8 year old me, that someone with a similar background could end up travelling the universe and saving civilisations.

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Doctor Who stayed my obsession from that moment onward.  I was an extremely overweight child and was bullied and taunted for it. Many picked on me for coming from a council house and not having money. My saviour was the mad man in a box and his companions, always there with open arms. Donna Noble was always told she wasn’t anything special, that she wasn’t good enough. But she proved everyone wrong! She saved planets, helped The Doctor and was BRILLIANT. The bullying would hurt, and I always felt alone, but I always had Doctor Who.

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It was 2014 when I was first diagnosed with depression, during my GCSE exams. At an age when relationships, parties and looking a certain way became important, I struggled massively. I hated how I looked and how I was, and everybody looked down on me for how much I loved Doctor Who.

That year I began to become more and more involved in online fandom because it was the only way I felt I could escape. I passed my exams and started college, where once again I got bullied. I broke down, left college and got completely lost. But the show saved me. I met up with friends I’d made online, went to Doctor Who events and conventions and got involved with cosplaying my favourite characters.
As I started work in various retail jobs, I was stuck and depression and anxiety had such a deep hold on me that every day was a struggle. Someone extremely important to me passed away in October 2015 and everything became a whole lot harder. During this time, series 9 of Doctor Who was airing and I couldn’t have been more grateful.

Clara Oswald had become reckless and uncaring for herself, and was grieving after the death of Danny Pink. The only thing she had to keep her going was The Doctor and the TARDIS, and I completely related to that. My friends that I had made through the show helped me through, and when The Doctor Who festival came around it made me realise how much this world had helped me.
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There was no Doctor Who in 2016. I’m not saying it’s the reason my life seemingly fell apart, but the show wasn’t there to distract me. Everything got too much and I tried to commit suicide. At the time I thought it was the only way out, but now I realise that it isn’t. I moved through various medications with little help, the mental health system failing me. I struggled with friendships, losing some and gaining some. I made mistakes, got hurt and didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t until I made this blog in March of this year that I began to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Concentrating my efforts into a blog about the very show that saved me has improved my mental health massively. It has brought me the most brilliant friendships and experiences I could never have imagined. It has also made me realise that I have a passion for writing, and has pushed me to start an Open University course in the hope that I will go on to complete a degree in English Literature and creative writing. The promise of Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor and the future of the show- and this blog, have given me something to live for. I still struggle everyday, but I’ve finally gotten myself to a place where I feel I can carry on. Doctor who saves hundreds of people. If you are struggling with your mental health and you aren’t sure where to turn: Open the TARDIS doors, pick a destination and fly away. There is, surprisingly, always hope. And that hope is Doctor Who.

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11 Replies to “The Hope of Doctor Who (World Mental Health Day)”

  1. For the last few months I’ve kept on having panic attacks and anxiety. When times get tough I just go and watch Doctor Who so I can escape. People at school think I’m weird that I like the show and that I watch it everyday. Which isn’t true. I’m just a massive fan of it and when I really just can’t cope Doctor Who is the place I turn to. Lately I’ve felt really alone as well. Which really isn’t helping me. But as long as Doctor Who is there, the longer I can cope. Great article Beth. Takes a lorange of courage to speak out about it.

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  2. This made me very hopeful for my own future, so thank you so much for writing this. I wish you all the best 🙂

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  3. I wish you all the best. The show has got me through some rocky times also – I’m a different generation (58) but I can relate. And fandom, at its best, is a very wonderful and powerful thing.

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  4. I’ve only gotten into the show this year (don’t judge LOL), and even as a person who doesn’t struggle with mental health problems (but who has a shitty life for other reasons), I can relate. Some series are pure escapism, but DW is something more – I call it my comfort show. It’s great that it is indeed able to help people who need it much more than me. Hugs!

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  5. I feel pretty much the same as you. I’m so happy you wrote this. I myself use doctor who to distract myself from reality. I didn’t have it from a young age as you did unfortunately but I had Angel and Buffy which I used in the same way. I would imagine that I was a slayer the most important person in the world, needed, loved, kool friends, hot bf and loads of drama. When I was older it soon changed to doctor who but I especially use it a lot more now. I dream of getting in a TARDIS and flying away often. I look at the stars most nights and wish of escape. I have great things in life like my partner of 10years but life is not simple and there is always difficulty you need to escape from. I’m very sensitive and care deeply about the world and what goes on around me so often feel depressed and anxiety. Doctor who is such a great escape and I think I will use it for a long time to come. Your not the only one and I’m so glad you shared this as in many ways it mirrors my own feelings which has made me feel less alone and less of a outsider. Thank you x

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  6. Growing up in the USA, I had similar feelings about Star Trek; Mr. Spock was my rock. Star Trek was my gateway into SF. I think ST handles big concept SF better than Doctor Who, but when it comes to intimate emotions and writing in an overlapping area of SF and Horror, Doctor Who is a lot better than Star Trek.

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  7. I too can very much appreciate the way a lot of Doctor Who fans use the show as a mental health tool. The show for a while gets you away from and eases your stresses, hardships, worries and anxieties. It’s been that for me since shortly after the return of the show in 2005.
    I feel that Doctor Who does the intricacies of relationships very well and that that appeals to many people as well as the fantastic adventures.

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