Counselling Opens Wounds - But That Isn't the Problem

27/09/2015 23:05 BST | Updated 27/09/2016 10:12 BST


Last week, I appeared in a video with Owen Jones, speaking about just why it is that so many men are killing themselves. It's a diverse subject without a single answer. There are so many things to consider, with each case being as individual as the person going through it but one thing is for sure, as a whole we simply don't know enough about what mental illness is and what it actually means.

I recently spoke to BBC Breakfast about my own story and in particular, my opinion on the NHS counselling services that currently exist. After speaking on the show, BBC Online led with the headline 'Counselling opens wounds - Jake Mills' focusing on that line alone which gained a bit of traction. It is something I mentioned in the video with Owen and something I know can make some people a bit nervous, so feel I should explain properly.

First of all, counselling, well, it opens wounds. That isn't something new, ground breaking or scandalous to say. You don't have to dance around it, it is pretty simple really. Sometimes counselling opens new wounds, sometimes old, sometimes counselling even opens wounds you didn't know existed, but whatever the wounds, they're there to be opened in order for them to be healed properly.

The issue for me wasn't necessarily the opening of the wounds, instead the fact that the one hour a week sessions didn't give me sufficient enough time to allow those wounds to be closed and healed again.

More often than not, I would leave the (just less than) hour sessions feeling more vulnerable than when I went in. I was given a few bits of homework, asked to write about my experiences, try to rationalise my thoughts and feelings - but I had to do that in my own time, alone at home, which was usually the last place I wanted to be. I wasn't given any help or guidance until I got back to the session a week later. I wasn't told about any other help that might've existed; I wasn't told about any services that could've helped me between sessions. I was just left to deal with what I had just opened up about until the next week and eventually, as a way of protecting myself, I started to simply lie about how I felt. I told the counsellor what she wanted to hear and stopped opening up. I was discharged from my treatment, seemingly fit. A week later I tried to take my own life.

That wasn't the counsellor's fault, I was a fantastic liar, and I have told her that since, but it was a fault of the current system that I found myself a victim of.

It is worth pointing out that I don't have a problem with counselling, far from it, and anyone who feels the need to open up absolutely should consider speaking to a counsellor. It is also worth pointing out that the Samaritans are available 24/7 on 116 123 as well as CALM and MIND who all do an amazing job - but it shouldn't be just up to them.

Only last month, a study by the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide showed a dramatic rise in the numbers suicides by men who were receiving mental health care. That is utterly terrifying.

The people who were getting help were feeling so helpless that they took their own lives. That is something we have to address and we need to do so openly and transparently without shying away from the truth.

We can't tiptoe around the subject and wrap it in cotton wool. We have to accept that the same old ways aren't even getting the same old results, the same old ways are getting consistently worse results and are needlessly claiming lives. We cannot ignore that fact and just live in denial.

The current one size fits all  set up doesn't always provide the answers and in many cases, such as mine, can do more damage than good. So we have to fix it.

People absolutely should still be reporting to doctors, A&E and counsellors and I will continue to guide anyone who comes to me for advance down those avenues.  Those routes alone can work perfectly for many, but they don't work for everyone and we can't pretend they do. If something isn't working the way it should then it is our duty to make it known otherwise nothing will change.

Fixing the problem doesn't necessarily mean throwing money at it - arguably the Government could actually spend less money but proportionally spread and make a bigger difference - but it does require us to be brave, break the mould and look at how things can be done differently and more efficiently.

GPs and Counsellors are under incredible pressure and, regardless of what we think of that, it is likely to only get worse under this government. But what we can do is look at methods of relieving that pressure by giving counsellors and GPs the freedom and channels to signpost people to other means of help and support that is available around them.

GP's don't have to be the experts, but they should at least know where the experts are. Under already crippling work pressures, doctors, nurses and counsellors could all benefit from being able to direct patients to help that already exists, as well as the normal treatment that they would offer.

Around the country there are thousands of grassroots organisations, charities and community groups that offer real practical help to people who desperately need it. Groups that don't have a 6 week waiting list, groups that allow you to be around people who are going through the same thing as you. These are groups that many won't even be aware of, groups that don't necessarily have the funding or staff to shout as loud as the bigger organisations but groups that offer absolutely crucial, lifesaving services.

We need to be shouting about them, we need to give them the platform to tell the world they exist.

That is what I want to do - so I am.

Over the last year I have been creating a charity for this purpose. Through Chasing the Stigma I am creating a Hub of Hope - a national database of all the grassroots groups that currently exist all over the country. One place to go and know there is help around you, one central hub that will allow someone to find real, practical help near them, wherever they are in the country. Help that doesn't require a waiting list. Help that isn't necessarily there to replace counselling or the GP but instead to coincide with them, help and support for between counselling sessions.

We have to remove the barriers of communication, to make it as easy as possible for people to find help because believe me, if there was a reason to not find help, if it was remotely difficult, I'd just stop trying. I didn't need the excuse.

So far I have been doing everything alone but now I need help.

It is impossible for me to know all the organisations that exist across the country, so I need you to tell me who you are. If you are a group, organisation, business or charity that offers mental health help or support, regardless of size or structure, then please register your details on and become part of the UKs biggest mental health database.

If we are going to make a change and make a real difference, we have to be prepared to do things differently.

There is no room for politics, rivalries or competition. We can't allow money, jobs or pride fly in the face of helping those who are in desperate need.

We all have to work together and be proud of the help and support that is out there. If we don't, the results will continue to be fatal.

Together we can make a difference. Together we can save lives. Register today and let us all move forward together.