IN 2015, 150 people Debs Carter admired, respected or felt some connection to, received a story in the post.

It was her story, which she had chosen to share it with them.

In the 20 booklet, they read about the severe depression she had suffered as a teenager and into her 20s.

They read about her multiple hospitalisations, including the entire year she spent in a psychiatric ward, receiving one-on-one care from a nurse to prevent her from seriously harming herself or taking her own life.

They read about her sense of shame, which only made her symptoms worse, they read about her isolation but most of all, they read about hope.

Because Debs' story is not one of being destroyed by depression, but of overcoming adversity, and the twist is that it is telling her story again and again that has helped her to do that.

The epilogue is that she now helps other people to tell their stories of overcoming adversity, sharing hope, strength and positivity, through The Touch Network.

Debs had a difficult childhood.

"I felt very depressed and isolated," says the mother of two from Bitterne Park, Southampton.

"I had severe depression and was suicidal. I struggled with very negative thoughts and was unsafe."

Debs was in and out of college and later university, and psychiatric hospitals, having been voluntarily hospitalised for her own safety.

She spent an entire year in a psychiatric hospital in Southampton after coming to the city for university.

"It was horrible," she says.

"You get institutionalised very quickly. I had a nurse with me one-to-one for most of the time. It was pretty intense and difficult."

Debs says that few people knew where she was when she was admitted to hospital, because she felt ashamed and was secretive.

It was when she realised that mental illness didn't have to be a secret that things began to change for her.

"I was in a therapeutic community in London twice, for a year each time, when I was 18 and 21," she says.

"It was there that I heard people in similar situations to me sharing their stories. This was a revelation to me.

"Hearing others tell their stories and talking about the things they discussed with their counsellor was a turning point. I thought if they could speak openly, maybe I could too.

"Also, I liked them, and it made me think that maybe I was likeable too.

"I heard a lot of stories and eventually began to share some of the stuff in my head, and I started to get better."

It has been a long journey to where she is now, with a family and a career, and depression is still a part of Debs life, but she describes herself as "well and happy."

"I'm still overcoming it. I'm not completely sorted, but who is?," she says.

Having realised the profound effect that hearing the stories of other and telling her own story had had, Debs decided to write her story, have it published and post it to people who inspired her, including celebrities, old school friends, colleagues and close friends.

"It had an amazing response," she says.

"Around 100 people got in touch, sharing their story, congratulating me and saying 'what's next?'.

Having received such a good response from sharing her own story, she decided to bring more people together to do the same.

She invited three people she knew to share their stories of overcoming something in front of a small audience at The Songbird Cafe in Bitterne Triangle.

"The response was amazing," she says.

"People loved it and wanted to know when the next event was, so I ran another."

This progressed to Debs setting up The Touch Network, with the aim of telling stories and touching lives.

It includes events, workshops and publishing books of people's life stories.

That was around two years ago. Since then, she has helped 65 people to tell their stories and has sold around 1000 tickets to her events.

"I give a lot of support to anyone telling their story," she says.

"I meet them for coffee first and have a chat to see where they're at. It's very important that they are comfortable with sharing their story and that they're not vulnerable. It's not something you can take back.

"The stories aren't all about mental health but they are about overcoming something.

"We've had people talk about dyslexia, alopecia, disability, coming out, ethnicity, adoption, grief and childhood experiences.

"The stories help both the speakers and the guests to have hope."

Debs' own story also continues to reach new audiences. She did a Tedx talk, entitled What Depression has Taught Me, which is available online and has been viewed more than 2,600 times, and frequently gives talks in NHS settings.

"It's hard sometimes, but I do it because it helps to give people hope," she says of sharing her story.

"I believe most people are good and the responses I've had have been really positive. I've never really had any negative comments. The worst is when people don't say anything; that's hard.

"When I look at what has already happened with The Touch Network, it feels quite shocking, what has come from my little story of overcoming.

"It's exciting to think that people are sharing things they wouldn't have otherwise.

"The response we have are that people feel inspired, hopeful and not alone – you don't normally get that on a Friday night out!"

Debs hopes that people can feel as inspired by telling stories as she has.

"I used to feel a terrible sense of shame," she says of her mental health issues.

"I really believed I was terrible and that I deserved to die.

"What changed for me was that sense of shame. I realised that I didn't need to feel ashamed. I was basically the same as everyone else. And depression has made me who I am.

"I have learnt how important it is to share your story and I help people share their stories in the most positive way possible.

"We work together to celebrate the awesomeness of how our stories make us who we are."