Updated: Jul 8, 2021
Many of us will experience a depressive episode at some point in our lives. It is one of the scariest, loneliest and most intolerable experiences any person can go through, especially when you’re told that, as a man, you shouldn’t express how you’re feeling.
It is a stark and tragic reality that suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. We need to unpick the unhealthy and unhelpful expectations we put on men. No one should feel forced to suffer in silence with a mental health illness.
I am hugely grateful to mental health podcaster, Dan, for helping me to challenge these toxic expectations by sharing his story. Dan, from Stoke, explains his struggles with severe depression, which led to a suicide attempt, and how he is now managing his mental health. He hopes by doing this, he will have inspired men to get help sooner than he did and potentially save their life.
How did you know you were struggling with your mental health?
My knowledge about mental health was non-existent. I didn't know that I was struggling. Looking back at the way I was feeling at the time, I felt it was normal. But at the same time, I was confused about why my thoughts were so dark.
I had a lack of motivation for everyday tasks such as work, for example. I didn't want to see anyone, not even my family or close friends. I would withdraw myself from social events because I thought people would be able to see how weak I was.
At what point did you know you needed to get help?
Considering taking your own life and feeling like you don't belong is a feeling many people get. When I attempted suicide and fortunately failed, I looked at my children, my wife and my family and friends and knew this was something I really needed to get help with. I thought the feelings were just a phase to begin with and they'd pass. Thinking this way put my own life at risk.
I rang MIND and spoke to them about how I was feeling. They booked me in for one to one sessions, but I didn't show up for the first two sessions due to fear and not knowing what would happen when I walked in the room. After speaking with my wife, she talked me round and convinced me to go to the next one, which I did, and it was the best thing I’ve done. It saved my life.
Did you find it difficult telling those close to you that you were struggling? How did you eventually tell them?
Yes, of course, and its natural to feel this way. I am a dad, big brother, husband, uncle and a son. Showing weakness was something looked down upon at the time, I didn't want to come across weak and feel a burden to my family. I became a member of a men's mental health group called 'Men Unite' in the summer of 2019. I'd never seen so many men opening up about their poor mental health! Some of the life stories were extremely sad but inspiring. I became an active member and my confidence didn't stop growing, the feeling you get when you realise how much strength you have is so powerful. I can't find the words. With the help from Men Unite and my therapist, I opened up to those close to me. I even went on BBC Radio Stoke and Sky News to tell my story.
What is the best thing you have done to manage and improve your mental health?
This sounds so simple yet one of the hardest things for so many people to do: I spoke about how I was feeling and begun to understand why I was feeling the way I was. I have cut out those that made me feel the way I did, whether that be friends or family. I stuck to seeing my therapist even on those days when I felt low. For me, talking broke that barrier.
What advice would you give to anyone reading this who wants to talk about how they're feeling but is struggling to do so?
Firstly, it's ok that you're struggling. Everyone has patches of depression throughout their lives. Talking was key for me, even writing down how I was feeling on paper or texting someone so they knew. There is so much support out there, mental health is ok to talk about the stigma is been broken slowly all the time. Use organisations such as MIND or even the text service called SHOUT.