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A client’s story of living with mental ill health whilst in the public eye – Abbie Norbury

Many of us who live or work in Essex will have spent many hours listening to the bright, bubbly and engaging voice of Abbie Norbury.  For nearly six years, until the start of the COVID pandemic, Abbie was a massive part of the Radio Essex breakfast show and then drivetime.

During her time at Radio Essex, Abbie contended with three long-term medical conditions: anxiety, depression and irritable bowel syndrome, which particularly flares up during episodes of stress and anxiety.  Abbie was always open about things.  She took her emotional support dog, Yogi, into the studio with her. 

She and her co-presenters, Paul Lovett and Chris Brooks, ran stories on emotional support animals.  They covered a lady with an emotional support squirrel and someone who had an emotional support miniature horse.  Assisted by Chris Brooks, Abbie also recorded a podcast episode about mental health, which focused on anxiety.  In it, she revealed the extent to which she had experienced symptoms of anxiety, including whilst on air.  At times, it was debilitating for her.  She tried, as best she could, to manage her symptoms via reflexology, nutrition, exercise, mindfulness and counselling, only resorting to medication when she really felt she had to.  This is an approach she has taken throughout her life, when trying to deal with the mental health challenges she has faced.

Whilst at Radio Essex, Abbie’s anxiety and IBS symptoms had a profound effect on her social life.  She would often cancel arrangements to meet with friends because she was too anxious to socialise in a group of friends, preferring instead to chat with them on a 1-2-1 basis.  Her enjoyment of social events was also limited by practical factors relating to her medical conditions.  Abbie was generally able to overcome all the difficulties she faced whilst presenting on air.  Yet, even with ongoing treatment, the combined effect of her three different conditions impacted substantially on her ability to carry out day to day activities such that they have been found to merit the classification of disabilities under the Equality Act 2010.

When news of the pandemic started to hit the press, Abbie’s anxiety levels increased.  By mid-March of 2020, she had started to express her concerns about it at work and the things that she felt needed to be improved upon within the workplace as a result.  She explained that she was suffering from acute anxiety and, given the circumstances she found herself in, would prefer to be allowed to broadcast as normal but from home.  Within days, and after six years of employment, Abbie’s employment was terminated with immediate effect, via a phone call, with her commitment being improperly called into question.

We have already posted an article about COVID and how it is affecting mental health.  It is especially important to be considerate towards and mindful of those who already had mental health issues before it started, particularly where those have the protected status of disabilities.

Since leaving Radio Essex, Abbie has continued to champion the cause of mental health, which is very close to her heart.  Abbie has recorded and posted a number of podcasts with her friend, Sadie. 

These are designed to raise awareness around mental health.  You can find out more about those at Black Dog White Swan online at any of the following links:

As well as a media personality, Abbie is a qualified nutritionist, yoga teacher, therapist and a personal trainer.  Her canine companion, Yogi, has helped her through the difficult times in life.  Here he is helping her whilst presenting at Radio Essex.

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