Home Individuals › Eric


Eric Biddington image

Album takes note of stigma

A project that brought together the musical and writing talents of two distant relatives is helping to raise awareness of the stigma associated with mental illness.

Eric Biddington, of Christchurch, and his distant cousin Rev Dr Terry Biddington, teamed up in 2013 to produce Unstrung Heroes, an album of chamber music interspersed with short talks on issues around stigma and discrimination.

Eric, an accomplished composer who has experienced schizophrenia and depression since the age of 20, was responsible for the album’s music, while Terry provided the words. “Does the music reflect the text? The answer is ‘probably’,” says Eric.

“With music, you make your own interpretation. The music can really stand by itself – it was written for the Westpac Chamber Music Competition. I just combined it with the text to make it entertaining.”

Each musical track on the album varies from upbeat to thoughtful, and is followed by a short, spoken piece from Terry with his thoughts on stigma and discrimination. “It’s not heavy-going, like a sermon,” says Eric, who is a former consumer advisor. “The music does provide a bit of relief from the text. The emotional feel of the music is lighter, so hopefully the two of them combined make it a good experience.”

He and Terry released the album in October 2013. “We talked about it for quite a while,” says Eric. “I was happy with the music and Terry was happy with the text. He supports an orphanage in India and the proceeds from the sale of the CD in England go there.”

Eric has experienced stigma and discrimination numerous times in his life. On one occasion, a good working relationship with a school was severed once the staff found out about his mental health diagnosis. “My mental health experiences and the experience of going into hospital have affected just about every area of my life. One thing that has always bothered me is that when you go into hospital, you’re seen as quite disabled. When you come out, it’s quite hard to get a professional job because you’re perhaps seen as not being reliable. “When you get a label, it’s awfully hard to get rid of it. I’ve found it difficult to find a job and I live on the invalids’ benefit.”

Despite having produced about 18 CDs and completing five university degrees in different subject areas, the 60-yearold is humble about his achievements. “My area of musical expertise is rather narrowly focused,” he says. “Chamber music isn’t the first choice of many New Zealanders. I give the CDs to the vet and the doctor and people in my neighbourhood. I’d say that perhaps I have a little bit of talent, which I’ve tried to make use of.”

Terry, a UK-based Church of England priest, does not have lived experience of mental illness, but his interest in discrimination stems from his work as a chaplain in an English psychiatric hospital.

While there, he was appalled at how some consumers were treated in hospital, and saddened by the stigma and discrimination they encountered in the community. “All stereotypes and labels need to be laid aside,” says Terry, on the album. “Could there ever be a day when the full continuum of mental health conditions is as routinely valued and integrated as the great spectrums of religious practice, gender and sexuality, and cultural diversity, have come to be?

“What would society look like if we dared to rethink our attitudes and some of our social expectations around mental ill-health?” 

Good reads

simon2 resized 2019

Positively bipolar


Simon Davis-Oakley enjoyed his life as a self-employed web designer and programmer... Read more

Magdel Hammond LMLM 2014

A different attitude to illness


Moving to Aotearoa was like shifting to “absolute paradise” for Magdel Hammond.... Read more

Richard anderson 6x4

Schizophrenia is part of my story


Schizophrenia is potentially the most stigmatising of all mental illness diagnoses. Despite... Read more

Minnie Baragwanath

Lessons on being who you are


Minnie Baragwanath is chief executive and creator of the Be. Institute, a... Read more

Hazel Guyan

Beautiful identities don't judge


University of Canterbury graduate, Hazel Guyan, is an inspiring young woman. Read more

Eric Biddington image

Album takes note of stigma


A project that brought together the musical and writing talents of two... Read more

Debbie Siau crop6x4

Debbie's journey to positive energy


When Debbie Siau was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she thought her... Read more

jo ashcroft 2014 marathon

Loving the bipolar label


To those who don’t know her, Jo Ashcroft is the “bipolar lady”... Read more

Lance Elliott

Personal experience inspires hope


Wellingtonian Lance Elliott has lived with schizophrenia for more than 20 years.... Read more


Poets stand against stigma


Rapper and performance poet Chris McMurray is drawing on his personal experiences... Read more

Andrew Serjeant image 1a

Art, stigma and other things


Some people spend all their spare cash on vices. Artist Andrew Sarjeant... Read more

Tamihana 2

Dancing out of the dark


When Kapiti dancer Tamihana Paurini experienced depression, he would not accept stigma... Read more

Shane and Joanna LMLM 2012

Living with someone who has a mental illness

Shane and Joanne

Everyone except their doctor said it couldn’t work, two people with bipolar... Read more

Rugby black and white person sport competition

A brush with mental distress


Pita Alatini says his brush with mental distress after being dropped from... Read more

WW Sarah Gordon image 1

Lifting the barrier for those battling mental illness


Between stints in psychiatric care and hiding her diagnosis from friends, Sarah... Read more


Takatāpui part of the whānau


By speaking up and challenging his own, and others, long held beliefs,... Read more

hand microphone mic hold

Student's speech breaks down barriers


“ARE YOU NUTS??!!! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU??? So you’re CRAZY then!?” So... Read more

Kirsten Wong image 3

Shutting down discrimination 


Being an inaugural Like Minds, Like Mine ‘PODder’ is a very exciting... Read more

Rob image 2

Black comedy fights depression


There are not many people who have the ability to turn a... Read more

HYTMNW RachelRoss

Have you tried, maybe, not worrying?


2015 media grant fellow Rachel Ross was 22 when she became aware... Read more

Caitlin image 2

Thriving, not just surviving


Nineteen-year-old POD participant and Auckland University statistics student, Caitlin Smart, remembers her... Read more

Helena 4

Sharing experience gives others hope


“The advice I would give my younger self is – keep your... Read more

Natalie pexels photo

The Mindful Minute Challenge


Natalie Lanfear has lived with mental distress for ten years, although the... Read more


From China to NZ: A mental health journey

Sue's story

*Sue packed up her family’s life in China more than a decade... Read more

Brightside pexels photo 192997


The benefits of having experienced mental illness

It feels almost flippant to be talking about the benefits of having... Read more

Annie mychillybin100017 86 Small

Discrimination from friends hard to handle


Annie (36) is frustrated with her friends after an episode of mental... Read more

Joan of arc

A cacophony of creativity

Nine hear voices

Almost 600 years ago an illiterate, French peasant girl rose to prominence... Read more

Te Ariki LMLM 2012 cropped

Out of the darkness and into the light

Te Ariki

As the warm sunlight streams in through the window behind Te Ariki,... Read more

Editorial news media image 2


Why the media matters

Research indicates that uninformed media coverage of mental distress can contribute to... Read more