Three men share their experiences with mental illness on World Mental Health Day
One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in their lives – it could be an acquaintance, the person sitting next to you – it could be you.
As part of World Mental Health Day, we’re publishing a series of articles about mental health.
Today, we start by interviewing three men who have suffered mental health problems.
And we have exclusive findings from a survey of WalesOnline readers who reveal how little faith they have in mental health services in Wales.
We found two thirds of people describe mental health services as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.
Here, three men share their stories of depression and reveal why they felt inspired to speak out.
Gareth Lennon, Cardiff: ‘I come across as outgoing… what people don’t see me is when I’m on my own’
“Over the past few years I have battled with depression on and off.
I’ve been put on various medication, suffered many (and strenuous) side-effects and spoken to many mental health professionals.
I’ve been doing this while trying to maintain a full-time career and keeping it from my family and friends.
Many people who know me personally would never think I suffer from depression. I come across as outgoing and confident.
What they don’t see is me when I’m on my own struggling to get up for work, they don’t see me close all my windows and curtains in my house and spend my weekends in complete darkness.
They don’t see me awake at night up all hours because my head is completely tangled.
I’ve lost so many relationships through this terrible condition, in some cases I’ve turned to alcohol and ended up ruining work and personal relationships.
There is still a stigma attached to depression, especially males (for some reason) – I’ve had a response from a family member before to ‘just get on with it’.
This just goes to show that people still don’t know the severity of depression. I’ve finally had the courage to talk to people about mental health and depression and how it has affected me.
I’ve tried to hide it for so long but now I find it much easier to talk to people openly and finally be honest with myself. I feel so much better in myself and find it so much easier to build relationships with other people.
I’m trying to focus on being a good example and making a positive difference to people’s lives.”
Jack Wilkinson, west Wales: ‘Eventually all I had was my work, the only piece of my life that I held onto’
“Having depression nearly cost me my life. I was a normal guy, pretty active and very sociable.
It all started about four years ago. I had to stop playing rugby, stop my rowing and stopped going out.
Eventually all I had was my work, the only piece of my life that I held onto.
I got to such a low point in my life that I felt I had to rid the world of my whole existence.
While I was stuck in this rut, I was so fixated on the idea that I wanted to kill myself that I very nearly went through with it.
But recently I’ve seen more men highlighting this stigma of struggling with mental illnesses.
They’re men like myself who have been through dark times – and since then I didn’t feel so alone in my dark mental state.
In fact, after reading about other people’s stories I have started to feel empowered. I was inspired. These men made a difference in their lives so why can’t I?
Today I have counselling, I have been under medical care and finally started moving forward!
Of course, I’ve still got a long way to go but things are getting easier.”
Aaron Corria, Cardiff: ‘The only way I could make myself feel better was to go out and drink all weekend’
“On the surface I look like any other normal guy. I enjoy going out, watching sports, having tattoos and keeping myself healthy.
But during my bad days I would shut my family and friends out by not answering phone calls and texts.
I found myself wanting to stay away from people and becoming increasingly withdrawn.
I’m not sure what triggers it and I’m not sure why I have it.
I became highly secretive of my depression. The only way I could make myself feel better was to go out and drink all weekend, then feel even worse the following Monday until it was Saturday again and do it all over again. This became a continuous cycle.
If I had a bad throat I would Google my symptoms and convince myself that I had cancer.
I was always back and forth to the doctors, but no matter what they said I always believed in my own mind.
I felt like everyone who tried to help was against me.
The day after Boxing Day I decided I’d had enough. I got in my car in floods of tears and drove to the cemetery to visit my grandfather’s grave.
As I pulled up my dad was putting down flowers and saw the state I was in.
I got out of my car and broke down in front of him. I told him how I was feeling and that I couldn’t go on any longer.
We went for food and I immediately felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
I wanted to get something out there which men and women could relate to, so I set up a website called Brotectors.
It’s a place for people to think ‘I’m not alone – I can get through this and I will get through this’. It’s changed my life.”
Depression can change one’s life as the time taken to recover is the actual time lost as the person cannot control his/her emotions. We wish all our reader wellness and Happy world mental day!!