Unreal reaches out to people of lived experience of DPRD and their carers and families. We seek to raise awareness of DPRD, to provide support and to promote involvement through providing up to date information, signposting, networking, the sharing of experiences and by celebrating success.
Our amazing ambassadors volunteer their time to support Unreal, helping us to reach more people and promoting our work more widely.
Professor Anthony David
Tony David was an honorary consultant at the Maudsley Hospital from 1990-2018 and Vice Dean for Academic Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London in 2013-8. He has been the director of the UCL Institute of Mental Health since 2018.
Professor David has a wide range of research interests including neuropsychiatry and neuroimaging. He started researching depersonalisation disorder (DP) in the 1990s and set up the Depersonalisation Research Unit at the Institute of Psychiatry and subsequently established the first NHS clinic for DP at the Maudsley Hospital. He has published many scientific articles on the topic and co-authored a self-help book “Overcoming depersonalisation and feelings of unreality”.
Professor David is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Academy of Medical Sciences. He is a member of the Experimental Psychology Society and a founder member of both the British Neuropsychological Society and British Neuropsychiatry Association.
dodie is a 24 year old singer songwriter from Epping, who has built her growing fanbase independently and organically since she was 16.
Originally posting her music on YouTube, dodie has now released 3 EPs which have charted in the UK, US Billboard, and Australian album charts. Most notably her recent release the ‘Human’’ EP reached #5 in the UK Albums Chart at the beginning of 2019.
Our Board & Trustees
Jane has suffered from episodic Depersonalisation Disorder since early adulthood. Her initial episode of Depersonalisation Disorder was triggered by single use of Cannabis and lasted approximately three years. Panic attacks have triggered subsequent and shorter episodes however her Depersonalisation Disorder has become more chronic of late and Jane is currently in an episode which has lasted approximately five years to date.
Jane is a founding member of Unreal and is a Civil Servant, mainly working on international policy and is keen to use this to continue raising awareness in political fora.
Jane waited over two years for her initial diagnosis due to a lack of awareness of the condition, and she has been campaigning for the last three years striving to ensure that this situation is not replicated for others. To date, she has campaigned for recognition of the condition in a number of different fora.
The Guardian newspaper featured Jane in an article published in in September 2015 entitled; ‘Depersonalisation Disorder, the condition you’ve never heard of that affects millions’, and Jane has appeared on the BBC Victoria Derbyshire Show. She also co-authored an article on the condition for inclusion in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), alongside Dr Elaine Hunter, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Professor Anthony David, Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, and participated in the subsequent BMJ podcast. Alongside this she has presented at numerous conferences for clinicians, mental health activists, and those in healthcare management, including NHS Improvement. Jane - and co-facilitator Sonja Jansli – have set up a Rethink peer support group for those managing the condition.
“DPRD has taught me that you often don’t get to choose your path in life – sometimes in the most fundamental ways, and to try every day to work with and try to accept a tiny bit. It’s also taught me admiration for the ‘superheros’ that keep silently battling and grappling with DPRD on a daily basis.”
Jane regularly walks and housesits dogs in her local area, and credits this for some tangible improvement to her anxiety symptoms.
Jane is a founder member and trustee of Unreal.
Dr Elaine Hunter
Elaine is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist who has worked with Depersonalisation-Derealisation Disorder since 1999. She has conducted research into improving psychological treatment of the condition and worked clinically to try to help many people with the condition. In March 2019 she set up The Depersonalisation Clinic to allow her freedom to see a wider range of clients. In the last few years she has collaborated with many involved with Unreal in trying to raise awareness of DPRD as well as improving access to treatment and increasing research funding. She suggested that a charity specifically for DPRD would be beneficial and is a Trustee of the charity.
“We need to continually aim for better awareness, understanding and treatment for this distressing and debilitating problem. Working closely alongside those with lived experience has been a fantastic experience for me as together we are able to push forward on our shared goals”
When not working, Elaine enjoys travel and art and is a non-recovering filmaholic with an annual unlimited cinema pass.
Elaine is a founder member and trustee of Unreal.
Mary is a carer for her daughter Jane who has lived with DPRD for 18 years. Having searched unsuccessfully for a local support group for carers to fit around her working hours she pledged to set one up when she retired. This group has now been running for over two years.
She then furthered her involvement with mental health networks locally to raise awareness of depersonalisation and derealisation disorder, giving talks to nursing students at the local university. Mary’s involvement with the board of Unreal enables her to support raising awareness nationally, and through this to drive improvements in diagnosis and treatment for this little-understood and debilitating condition.
Mary also chairs the EbE Patient and Carers group in the School of Health Sciences at Southampton University. This is a voluntary role working in partnership with senior leaders to put the 'voice' of patients and carers central to education policy - from student recruitment to curriculum design, teaching and assessment.
Prior to retirement Mary enjoyed a long career in primary education and was headteacher of a junior school for 16 years.
“Caring for a daughter who has lived with DPRD for many years, and watching how she and others manage this condition to be able to live the best lives they can, I am awestruck by the determination and courage, the creativity and resilience shown each and every day."
Mary is a founder member and trustee of Unreal and currently holds the post of secretary.
Heather is a musician and Arts Marketing professional based in Nottingham. She first experienced Depersonalisation at the age of 27. Despite living with anxiety and panic since the age of 7, Heather was was so confused and frightened by the symptoms of Depersonalisation that she didn’t realise they were the result of a panic attack and was convinced she was dying. She describes that first experience of Depersonalisation as one of the most terrifying things that has ever happened to her. The symptoms would continued to appear at seemingly random times for the following year. After reading an article in the Guardian which featured Unreal founder Jane Charlton. Heather contacted Jane asking if they could meet and she soon became involved in setting up the first UK charity for DPRD.
These days, although her Depersonalisation can re-appear at times of anxiety, Heather is pleased to report that her symptoms have greatly improved since that first experience. Heather is intent on raising awareness of the disorder - and the potential for recovery - in the hope that no-one else has to feel as frightened as she did.
Heather is a founder member and trustee of unreal.
Jen suffers with both depersonalisation and derealisation. Through her own research to identify her symptoms she discovered that much needed awareness and support around the disorder is needed. Jen became passionate about using her personal experiences to help raise awareness and support others. In doing so she has been able to connect with fellow sufferers and further pursue her desire to help others through joining the Board at Unreal.
Jen has a sales and marketing background from the leisure industry, charity sector and currently is a co business owner/director. Jen continues to work with a clinical psychologist to help manage her symptoms and has welcomed yoga and mindfulness both as new interests and coping strategies. Jen has found therapeutic benefits from walking her dog and being in the tranquillity of nature.
“DPRD has taught me a lot about acceptance and self-compassion. It is a terrifying and lonely condition. It destroys and debilitates life as you knew it. You can’t magic it away but if you can learn to accept it you can find ways to manage it and lessen its grip. With support and encouragement, you can learn to live again experiencing life in a different way. You learn to pay attention to what you can do and no longer what you can’t.”
Jen has cycled Land’s End to John O’Groats and hopes to get well enough to fundraise for Unreal through cycling.
Joe has suffered with persistent depersonalisation & derealisation since 2008. Like many sufferers, his diagnosis only came about following many late-night Googling sessions and discovering the condition himself – on realising that his symptoms simply couldn’t have been anything else, DPRD was ‘pitched’ to the professionals and this subsequently yielded an official diagnosis by the Maudsley Hospital.
Joe is a guitarist based in Bristol, having studied Commercial Music at university and learnt various instruments from a young age. Since graduating, the pursuit of a career in the industry has been forced to take a back seat in the daily battles of living with depersonalisation – however, music remains central to his life and a key factor in keeping him motivated & stable.
“The brilliant thing about creativity is that we can use it to let out things we couldn’t otherwise verbalise. Plus, producing art can act as a very important personal diary when struggling with your mental health: I spend my entire life feeling like nothing is real & not feeling many emotions, but I can look back at music I’ve made over the years and remind myself that despite how chronic things have become, I can still function and do what I love.”
Joe also runs the YouTube channel DPD Diaries – an endeavour aimed at assisting other sufferers in their daily lives & accessing the correct treatments. Having battled for his own diagnosis; been through many therapy programs; trialled medications; and has had to adapt his views on life to accommodate the DPRD, Joe aims to pass this knowledge on and help others feel less lost and alone when living with the condition.
Lin suffers with both Depersonalization and Derealisation and thought it was normal to live with the physical symptoms which she first noticed at the age of 10. Upon diagnosis in 2010, she felt secluded due to little knowledge of the disorder amongst family and the general public. Thanks to intensive talking therapies she has been able to reconnect to one of her core values to help anyone who needs support. This has contributed to her desire to heighten the awareness of DPDR by joining the Board at Unreal.
Lin has a teaching background working with young adults and children with special needs including profound and multiple learning difficulties and autism. She uses her own experience of isolation to connect with lonely adults on a weekly basis by working as a volunteer for Esther Ransom’s Silver Line Charity. Lin hopes to use her teaching skills to offer peer support through Unreal.
An awareness of the correct information about DPDR has taught Lin that she needs to take a kinder and more realistic view of herself.
“I have learnt to pace myself better, recognising unhelpful thoughts and feelings and taking appropriate action to stop them becoming earworms. I have been given my life back and now use my ‘box of tricks’ to face the world with my anxieties in the knowledge that I can do it.”
Swimming and Tai-chi help to ground Lin in the real world.
Michael is a long-term sufferer of DPRD, with Derealisation as the primary condition. He was one of the first to be assessed at the Depersonalisation Research Unit at The Maudsley in London and has taken part in numerous trials, continuing to contribute to its research to this day.
While he has never fully recovered from the condition, he leads a very functional life and has never let the condition hold him back, despite many years of difficulty. After suffering for 15 years prior to being diagnosed, Michael now hopes his experience can go some way to helping others and particularly those that are unaware of what is happening to them. It was only with the advent of the internet that he discovered other people were experiencing similar symptoms and that revelation set him on a path of hope and partial recovery. He joined the board of Unreal after meeting Jane Charlton at a support group, recommended to him by Dr Elaine Hunter.
Michael has a background in film, video production, and photography and he hopes these skills can be used to raise awareness of the condition and reach out to fellow sufferers, as well as document any progress made in a research capacity. He enjoys travel and finds challenging himself with unconventional trips and immersing in other cultures and experiences acts as a form of therapy. Michael also writes and directs and hopes at some stage to produce a film which touches on the condition. Music is also a strong part of Michael’s life and he finds it is one of the few pleasures to cut through the haze of the disorder, he also values humour, close friendships and social engagement with others as a way to ground himself.
“Ironically, DPDR has taught me to appreciate life, even though I often feel I am an observer of one rather than a participant. I have seen a vast change in attitudes since my first experience with DPDR over 30 years ago, that has enabled me to go from a belief that I was going mad, or had actually died, to a path of acceptance, finding and meeting others with the same experience, and ultimately to where we are today and my involvement with Unreal. It’s been a long journey that I would never want anyone else to go through, my one hope is that I can help others to realise they are not alone with this.”
Andreas has suffered from Depersonalisation and Derealisation since 2009. Initially, he thought he had a brain injury, as he couldn't figure out how the various symptoms were all connected. Because of his academic background, he decided to start researching the various symptoms he had. After many months of research, with him questioning his own sanity and sense of reality, he discovered this condition that was unknown to him until then. He pressured his GP to be referred to the Maudsley Hospital, after reading about some of the relevant research that was taking place there. This led to him being officially diagnosed with the condition; an important personal milestone in him reclaiming a sense of agency and understanding of his inner struggle.
Even though he is still living with the condition, he has a very functional life, working full-time for a private bank and actively using his work-related networks to raise awareness about the condition. Having experienced social isolation and bullying during his formative years and having understood that these led to him developing DPRD, he has identified some of the key triggers and invests time and effort in his close friendships as a way to help manage his condition.