Open Up: ‘I still have very dark times - but now I have the tools to cope’
- Credit: Archant
In the final day of this newspaper's special coverage on the topic of men's mental health, where we give a voice to those impacted, light is shed on how help can be accessed, even when the situation seems bleak.
Emma Corlett, mental health champion for Norfolk County Council
I chose the subject of male suicide because I have seen first hand the devastating fall out from suicide. There is a lot of shame around suicidal thoughts. They are very common, and having suicidal thoughts doesn't mean that you will act on them, but you should speak with someone for support as soon as possible. It's nothing anyone should feel embarrassed about.
If you continue to have suicidal thoughts and have considered a plan to take your own life you should seek help urgently.
Speak to your GP via an urgent appointment or go to A&E if you feel in imminent danger. For people who may be worried about a loved one there is lots of useful guidance including telephone numbers on our website on our suicide prevention pages www.norfolk.gov.uk/iamokay. Although you should call 999 if you feel that somebody is in immediate danger.
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Hope is really important. Confide in a friend, family member or health professional who can help keep you safe and keep the hope until you start to feel hopeful again yourself.
Ned Henderson, North Norfolk
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Many of us suffer emotional and mental health problems at some stage in our lives. We men often feel we have to tough it out and cope on our own, but we all need help from others sometimes.
I was fortunate to find support when I needed it and it helped me through a very tough spell of my life. Mental and emotional pain is very isolating and it often takes the support of another trusted Andy non-judgmental person to help us find our feet again.
Taking care of ourselves is also very important though we often don't feel like it when spirits are low. Fresh air, exercise and time spent outdoors in nature helps me to calm troubled spirits and stay resilient.
I have been a counsellor and psychotherapist in Norfolk for almost 25 years now. If you are looking for help, ask around and look until you find someone you feel is trustworthy.
Steve Foyster, Horsham St Faith
In 1986 I tried to take my own life. In doing so I incurred multiple injuries, spending eight months in hospital learning to walk again. I simply hadn't received adequate medical treatment for deep depression. Ironically upon discharge I found an exceptional GP and psychiatric nurse who actually listened to me.
I've received excellent cognitive behaviour therapy and attended an eight-week mindfulness course which was eye opening. I have managed to totally rebuild my life over 30 years.
Four years ago I trained as a peer tutor for the Recovery College based at Hellesdon Hospital. I now help facilitate mindfulness courses and input at forums on suicide prevention.
I still have very dark times especially in the early hours and chronic pain is a daily reminder of my suicide attempt. However I now have enough tools to in my box through mindfulness, trusted friends , supportive family and remarkable physiotherapist to get through the worst of times and enjoy the best.
Trevor Saunders, Men Talk About It
I started Men Talk About It, a social enterprise which encourages men to talk about problem before they become overwhelming, after my personal experience.
I felt completely isolated and didn't know what to do or who to go to for help.
After several months I decided I wanted to do something to help others and thought about what I would have liked to have done with the benefit of hindsight.
We now encourage people to think about who they would call if they had an emotional emergency before it happens, then put that number in your phone under MATE (Men Always Talk Early), it could be anyone, a friend, relative, support group. It's like an insurance policy for your mental health, you will only need it when you need it.
Shane Lutkin, Norwich
For decades, I suffered with not knowing myself. Aged 38, everything came to a head when I battled depression, a cognitive close down, stress and anger. The alpha male pretence within me refused to accept there was anything wrong.
My life disintegrated and I had a total collapse. For three months I didn't wash, couldn't get dressed and contemplated suicide. I tried all sorts of remedies, from alcohol to cognitive behavioural therapy to medication.
I was completely lost and entered a period of my life where I didn't connect with anyone. After a decade being non-functional I decided to study the theory of personality ending up with a masters degree. I became self aware, moved emotionally, found my true self and a new way of being.
When I recognised, acknowledged, and accepted by frailties I became a stronger man. Now I run a psychotherapy organisation. I am in the best place I've ever been.
David Hawkins, Hethersett
A sudden breakdown in my consciousness, space closing in around me, a tension in my arms and legs with the weight of an elephant on my chest. I thought I was going to die that day.
My journey with mental health began on May 21, 2010. An extreme panic attack that I did not recognise or understand began a journey of change in my life, not leaving the house for six months, being off work, and eventually losing my career. I was a middle aged man, husband and father of two with no direction or purpose in my life. Alongside the crippling anxiety, bouts of depression that forced me to reconsider all that I had known.
Today I celebrate nine years since a diagnosis of mental health, with the then stigma that came with it. I was lucky to have a strong support structure around me, and although some have come and gone, my life is once again filled with fun and laughter as I learn to live with mental health.
Friend, son, brother, father, partner, paramedic, but most importantly me. Learning to accept that I cannot change or control everything, being able to give back to others, learning what makes me happy. Talking about mental health is the only way.
In this special report this newspaper has brought together the first-person stories of 20 people - mostly men - who have experienced mental ill health, as well as the families affected when help has not been sought, and professionals trying to help.
Over four days this newspaper will be sharing the stories of men, their families, and health professionals, to show it is okay for men to talk about mental health.
- To share your story and get involved, tweet or send us a video using the hashtag #EDPOpenUp and tag @EDP24 - you can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.