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‘I’d decided I wasn’t worth it’: Entrepreneur launches mental health campaign following depression struggle

PUBLISHED: 09:38 05 February 2020 | UPDATED: 09:38 05 February 2020

Kieran Miles who is heading up a mental health campaign. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Kieran Miles who is heading up a mental health campaign. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Two years ago 29-year-old Kieran Miles noticed a shift in his moods and outlook.

The clothing brand founder continued to struggle with his mental health, turning to alcohol and self harm before hitting rock bottom.

Now the Norwich-born entrepreneur has launched a mental health project, ASK, in the hope that he can help others in the position he was once in.

In this column he explains his journey to launching the campaign:

September 2019. I'm due on stage in 10 minutes for the Norfolk & Suffolk Unlimited launch, I'm in the bathroom, mic off, crying.

Overwhelmed by a panic attack - anxiety and my depression are getting the better of me.

A splash of water to my face, it's time to get through this.

I choose to mainly speak with my back to the audience - joining them looking at the slides on the screen. This way I knew they wouldn't see my eyes or notice the redness.

Just one month earlier I had penned a suicide note, and a couple of weeks before the talk I had begun self harming.

Hidden behind my eyes and smile, I was so lost.

Two weeks later I attended the Community Sports Foundation running group, Run4Me.

I went under the guise of it being a 'fact finding mission' for my position on the CSF's fundraising board.

In reality, I knew the club used running as a way to help with their mental health, and it was a mission to seek help.

On my third session I was jolted - quite literally - when I collided with another runner.

In that moment I called the doctor, within two hours and after breaking down to her, I was prescribed medication, critical care treatment and I had overcome one of my biggest fears, admitting I needed help.

It all began in 2018, I began to feel different.

My mood and perspective was changing, tiredness was overpowering me and the pressure of life, work and running a business crushing me slowly.

In 2019 things worsened and I became more lost, overwhelmed, distant and self medicated through drinking, starving myself and not stopping.

I was scared to stop, but I was increasingly unable to keep going.

As a business owner I went through more than 200 pitches for cash and secured 10 investors.

But that's 190 explanations on why your idea is rubbish.

On top of that we had factory problems, we moved production to China, all under the pressure to kit out the best in British; Team GB, and then came major events in my personal life too.

I was in debt, my daily To-do list was two sides of A4.

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In March I was involved in a four-car pile up on the motorway.

I discharged myself from hospital for within five hours and cracked on the next day like it never happened.

I continued to smile through meetings, having bursts of energy for short periods of time, playing a character I was increasingly unfamiliar with.

I didn't know who I was anymore and I'd decided, twice, that this version of me wasn't worth it.

It wasn't until I had been treated for depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, trauma, burnout and not to mention an eating disorder and a drinking problem, I realised I was a shell of the person I once was or am today.

Even writing this makes me a little embarrassed for letting it get that extreme.

But depression creeps up on you unknowingly and then one day you realise you're wearing it as a straight jacket and it's getting harder to breath.

That embarrassment for not getting help sooner has turned to motivation.

That experience of darkness turned to inspiration, that I opened my black book, made some calls and made it my mission to 
do everything in my power to prevent others going through the same.

And that starts by talking about it. It starts by saying this is me, it's not always the Instagram filtered life others see, and recognising that what we go through is what we grow through.

So today we launch the ASK campaign. Awareness, Support, Keep Going.

This campaign will be the THINK Road Safety campaign for mental health in the workplace.

This project will differ to the Eastern Daily Press Mental Health Watch campaign in that their focus is on reducing stigma and improving provision.

ASK will differ in that we're also looking at how we can prevent mental health problems becoming too serious.

The aim is to achieve three things:

n Normalise the conversation about mental health through activating community leaders to share their stories and support mechanisms.

n Signpost the support which already exists.

n To positively impact the prevention of serious mental health challenges, to reduce the impact on the NHS and as a result improve services when they are most needed.

Through working with businesses to promote ASK, we'll implementing the first ever payroll giving scheme for local mental health provision via the Norfolk Foundation and encouraging members of our community to share their stories and their support to normalise the conversation.

I believe in 12 months we'll change the landscape of health in the workplace and lives across the East of England.

I see it my responsibility to take this on and do all I can to improve the lives of those in our community.

So expect to hear a lot more about this in 2020.

And if you're reading this, knowing you're suffering in silence too, please know that you're not alone, it's safe to talk. It's so incredibly important to get help and that there really is hope.

Trust me, I promise you can get through this too.

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