"As a man it is sometimes difficult to talk about these things, to find help, or find the motivation to find help"

Peers in Partnership

All the support I’ve received has helped me to be more positive about myself, more hopeful about what the future will bring, and just happier in general really.

I think it’s really important to talk about mental health because there’s been lots of stigma in the past, and because it’s not a visual disability it isn’t always seen and acknowledged.

It should be more widely talked about and understood, especially in the workplace and in families. World Mental Health Day is a good start.

I want to share my story so I can help others. It might be motivational for even just one person.

There are so many people out there who need help. And a lot of people don’t have a social circle – they’re isolated and lonely. It’s heart-breaking to think that.

As a man it is sometimes difficult to talk about these things, to find help, or find the motivation to find help. But I’m ever so glad I did and I’d recommend anyone going through what I did to reach out. There’s so much help. It’s been wonderful. Things can improve.

I have suffered with bouts of depression for as long as I remember, however, it is only now I realise I experienced depression as a teenager. I couldn’t talk to anyone about that.

Now, I’ve got a good group of supportive friends. We’re all in a similar situation and talk openly about our issues. We get together once a week. We call it The Debating Society! It’s great - we can discuss things, disagree with things, have some manly banter. It’s the highlight of my week! I find it very liberating.

The friendships developed from meeting a cleaner in my old block of flats. We realised we shared similar experiences. It’s really made the transition of living here so much better. I feel privileged living here – there’s so much going on.

Throughout my life, I have had failed friendships and relationships. I never felt like I fitted in and often felt lonely. I often turned to alcohol to self-medicate. But I realise now this wasn’t the answer, as it only made my depression worse.

When I was 20 years old I developed a hereditary eye condition which became worse over a period of time. It appeared when I was driving home from work one day and I couldn’t see where I was going. I was given contact lenses which meant I could still drive and work even though it was very uncomfortable.

But in 2005, the condition got a lot worse. I was in a lot of pain and discomfort and I could no longer do my job. I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t carry on. I couldn’t see well enough to drive anymore, and I kept hurting myself at work.

I had to give up work as a builder and decorator and owner of a small business. I was feeling desperate and was very depressed about the whole thing. I had to sell my house and downsize.

This had a huge impact on me. I felt less of a man because I couldn’t provide and had to live off a limited income. It affected my confidence and self-esteem. But I didn’t accept the seriousness of how I was feeling.

I rejected help from local social services and the RNIB. Being a man, being young, being headstrong, I rejected it foolishly. I now know that was a mistake. My attitude was, “I’m a bloke, we don’t do that!”

I thought I could look after myself - I’d always looked after myself. My GP said, “I hope you don’t become depressed,” and I was like, “I’ll be alright.”

Ten years down the line and I look back and the effects of not working have been detrimental to my health and wellbeing.

I think we’re all supposed to work. It gives us a grounding, helps with our wellbeing, and gives us a sense of pride and place in society. If that’s taken away then you can feel isolated and inferior which can lead to depression. And it did in my case.

For years I would say, “This is no good, you’ve got to get help.” And I didn’t. Some of it was not knowing where to get help and some of it was me not wanting to admit it.

Last winter I was feeling very desperate. Something had to change – I couldn’t keep going like this.

In February, I finally went to my new GP. He was wonderful. He listened. He was really supportive, really good. What stopped me from going earlier? “Guys don’t do that!”

He immediately prescribed me some medication and referred me to Health in Mind. I started to embrace help and support. This was when I was introduced to Southdown’s Community Links and Peers in Partnership services.

My Community Links Adviser recommended that I go to the Recovery College in Hastings. I did two courses there – Life After Diagnosis and Finding Happiness. They were both with the same tutor – she was fantastic. Very inspiring, caring, and understanding. And she had lived experience of mental health challenges herself. It was a room full of like-minded people and we shared a bit about ourselves.

There was a lot of helpful information and I made a couple of friends there too. It was good to talk about how I was feeling. I enjoyed that. It was a humbling experience as well because there are people worse off.

The Community Links support was great. My Adviser also had lived experience and she was very knowledgeable. She was amazing. After a while, she recommended I should look at becoming a Student Buddy with Peers in Partnership. That felt really good.

I’ve always enjoyed helping people. I’m a believer in the old saying, ‘There’s more pleasure in giving, than receiving.’ Not being able to work has left a big gap in my life, so I’m now a Student Buddy!

A Student Buddy supports someone and helps them through their nerves or anxieties. For example, if we have a student who’s attending a course at the Recovery College or similar, and if for any reason they’re a bit nervous about leaving their home or travelling to the venue or have any anxieties about the course at all, then I can arrange to come to their home, bring them there or meet them at the venue.

It’s not all over but I try to keep myself busy and stay positive which the medication helps with. I’m also looking to future employment now. I’m on the waiting list for Employment Support.

All the support I’ve received has helped me to be more positive about myself, more hopeful about what the future will bring, and just happier in general really.

It was this holistic approach to managing my depression that has enabled me to reconnect, seek support, and build my self-confidence.