“I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression on and off since my twenties. It comes and goes – I get spells when I’m reasonably healthy and things rub along quite well, and spells that are pretty severe – I get quite deep depressions and it does impact on my ability to function – family life, work life and that sort of thing. But since I’ve been exercising regularly and getting fitter it’s certainly lessened the impact that mental health problems have had on my day to day life.
“In the last year I’ve come off medication completely – for the first time in a dozen years at least I don’t take anything – I run. It gives me the headspace – to get out and be myself and it makes me feel good – it makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. You have a rubbish day at work and sometimes it’s a struggle but you get your trainers on, go out for a run and when you get back everything’s in perspective.
“I’ve had difficulties for many years, and it’s amazing when you do actually talk about it people say ‘yes, that’s me too.’ You have no idea – people put up that façade and say everything’s ok, because I’m a bloke, and then when you scratch the surface they’ve got the same anxieties and the same problems underneath, and they’re struggling just as much as you are, but you’d never guess until you get talking to people. That’s a lot easier when you’re just jogging along and chatting to someone, then maybe over a pint. I think when you’re out in open space you become more expansive and it feels like a safer environment.
“There is a stigma attached to mental health problems and there’s also the fear that people are going to look at you differently. I have experienced that in the past – reacted negatively when they’ve discovered I have mental health problems.
“I think because of campaigns like the Heads Together campaign, I think the stigma is lessening, but there’s a long way to go. To a certain extent it’s a generational thing – if I talk to my kids about that sort of thing that’s cool – if I talk to my parents that a different thing entirely.
“If you don’t talk about it, it’s not going to go away on its own. Just talking things through breaks the taboo – it gets it out there and if you express it, once the genie is out of the bottle it’s not as scary. It takes courage – it’s difficult to admit to people that you’ve got this thing that’s tearing you up, but when you do and realised people aren’t shying away like you’re infectious, it feels better. There’s no panacea – there’s no quick fix but if you don’t talk about it, it’s not going to go away on its own.
“When you get people who give you the opportunity to start the conversation, don’t say ‘I’m alright’ and pretend that everything’s fine. If somebody opens that door for you, just take the opportunity. People don’t ask unless they really want to know.”