A white man with a smooth head and a grey beard is sitting on a garden bench. He is dressed in black and has a black bag next to him.

"It’s not just about talking about your feelings, it’s connecting to your feelings and not dismissing them."

“Opening up took away the burden that I was carrying”

I felt like a burden. That there was no point carrying on and it would be easier for everyone else. I’d had my time.

I’d come out of a job that made me feel suicidal and I was out of work for a long time which put me in a more negative space. I got to a point where I didn’t feel I could be open with people.

Because there’s a stigma to it, I didn’t want to talk about it. But suicide shouldn’t be stigmatised.

Sharing experiences is very healthy. I’m a Peer Support Worker at Staying Well Brighton & Hove and I got this job through my lived experience – which was eye opening and breathtaking. It turned a negative to a positive.

I help people in self-defined mental health crisis. We run a café where people can come and relax and have tea, coffee, hot chocolate. We do activities – puzzles and games – things to take your mind off the stresses and troubles outside. You can also chat and we’re happy to listen.

You feel very isolated and very lonely when you’re at your most lowest and this service is an opportunity to not feel those things.

It’s the perfect job in terms of what I’d been through. I now have a deeper level of understanding and it creates a level of empathy that goes beyond anything else.

As a Peer Support Worker, you have to be yourself, be open, and that creates a level of safety. I can create a gentleness with clients that they’re not necessarily going to experience elsewhere. You get mentored really well in this service. I’m developing skills of listening, tenderness, and quietness.

There’s still a massive stigma around mental health. Even now, people don’t really want to hear it. Some people still aren’t accepting.

What I’ve learnt is you can’t close down. You’ve got to have an open heart. Opening up took away the burden that I was carrying. Recognising the triggers and the flags and the feelings is key to being able to manage your way through life. It’s about being honest with yourself, rather than constantly hiding it.

There are so many men in crisis that won’t admit to it. A lot of men think they can’t talk about stuff. The idea of being vulnerable is too much for them. We’re living in a society where we’re not supposed to talk and it creates feelings of isolation.

I need men to know it’s not just about talking about your feelings, it’s connecting to your feelings and not dismissing them. I grew up with two women – my mum and grandma – and that was incredible to be able to learn about feelings. I prefer the company of women as you can be yourself.

Know that you’re not alone. There are other people out there who’ve lived it and are willing to share that with you. We’re now living in the world of the individual, but it’s about recognising that what we share is most important. Instead of looking for difference, we should look for the similarities.

Open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, Staying Well provides psychosocial support within a safe, supportive and therapeutic environment. Staying Well is provided by Southdown, in partnership with the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.