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Open Up: 'I did not know what was happening to me, my life fell apart'

PUBLISHED: 06:00 19 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:47 20 June 2019

Darren Elston, Jon Norman, Stuart Rimmer, Tod Sullivan and Ardyn Ross who are speaking out about men's mental health. Picture: Archant

Darren Elston, Jon Norman, Stuart Rimmer, Tod Sullivan and Ardyn Ross who are speaking out about men's mental health. Picture: Archant

Archant

In the second day of this newspaper's focus on men's mental health, those from Norfolk and Waveney tell of struggles when the world feels like a dark place - but with encouragement the sun will shine again.

Darren Elston. Picture: Darren ElstonDarren Elston. Picture: Darren Elston

Darren Elston, Oulton Broad

I have been a reservist for over 13 years and also work in the entertainment industry. I have two beautiful girls, Sophie, aged eight, and Charlotte, aged 18.

I suffered with mental health over eight years ago. I did not know what was happening to me, my life fell apart. One day I decided to talk about how I felt.

This was, and is, the first step to recovery. The world is and always has been a beautiful place, as you are. We all have dark days, we are human. This is what we have to understand.

There is nothing wrong with not being okay. Talk about how you feel. It doesn't make you less of a man. The sun will shine again in your life.

Soul Church pastor Jon Norman.
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.Soul Church pastor Jon Norman. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Jon Norman, Soul Church, Norwich

20 years ago there was a stigma which made it difficult to talk about mental health, but it's fantastic now that across all walks of life and community we are now teaching about it, learning about it and understanding it.There are no quick fixes, but I think at church we can offer a way of talking about it. Both men and women should speak up, and if in church we can offer them a way of doing that it can only benefit all of us.

In February at our mental health awareness event we had our biggest attendance which was really interesting because it shows me that people do want to engage and understand. When we first put the events on we had interest, but it has really grown and that's why we continue to do it.

One of the big things we are realising is how isolation is a way that poor mental health grows, and church and football and things that gather people together are important.

It's a safe space. We are community for the city and that's whether you believe in god or you don't.

Stuart Rimmer. Picture: Stuart RimmerStuart Rimmer. Picture: Stuart Rimmer

Stuart Rimmer, chief executive of East Coast College and national education mental health campaigner

As chief executive of a large college I am a huge advocate of supporting people with gaining better mental health. Too many young people and increasingly men suffer in silence due to stigma or being connected to industries and roles that don't encourage them to talk and share.

At East Coast College we have seen first-hand the positive benefits of young men opening up, learning about their emotions and feelings and proactively seeking help and support.

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As a result their mental health is better and they are more successful in their academic and professional lives. One in four people might suffer from a diagnosed mental health condition in their lives but I believe that four in four people will need some help sometimes and deserve good mental health.

Tod Sullivan. Picture: Tod SullivanTod Sullivan. Picture: Tod Sullivan

My advice to any men who are suffering is don't suffer in silence and talk to someone- today!

Tod Sullivan, Norwich

I'm 41, I live in Norwich, and my close family are all from or in Norfolk. I never thought I'd be able to talk about things that in my mind were embarrassing or shameful to face, avoiding them caused me to try and take my life, it felt like a practical decision - 'the world would be better off without me' was in my mind a fact.

What saved me was learning that other people had secrets too, made mistakes and were brave enough to talk about them. Once I felt safe enough to do the same my life changed, I also realised the impact my death would have made was huge. Far from disappearing from people's lives I would loom larger than ever.

I hope people struggling to speak about what they are most afraid of can at the very least face today then tomorrow knowing that there is a way to feel safe, to feel trust in other people, and there is a way to recover.

Ardyn Ross. Picture: Ardyn RossArdyn Ross. Picture: Ardyn Ross

The recovery journey will be unique, but it will be easier if you make use of the experiences of other people to remind you what may work and what feels right.

Dr Ardyn Ross, Gorleston GP and Great Yarmouth and Waveney mental health clinical lead

Mental health problems can affect anyone at any time.

Around one in three people that we see in primary care are struggling with mental distress.

If you are experiencing difficulties such as anxiety,depression, sleeping problems, anger, issues with gambling, alcohol or drug misuse, I would encourage you to talk about it. Through seeking help early you can feel better.

We are here to listen and support.

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 geraldine.scott@archant.co.uk.

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