I'd been in the military, a place where you get taken away from your friends, your family, and your support, when it happened the first time. I can now see that for a couple of years I was really struggling. I couldn't say what caused it and it's only with hindsight that I know I struggled at all. But I was suddenly in this place where I thought that killing myself was the only way out. The only way out from what? I didn't know and to be honest I still don't fully understand what happened and I don't think I ever will. Something just snuck up on me. This feeling of sadness, deep sadness that slowly ate away at me and became depression.
I remember hearing that people thought suicide was a selfish act. But when you're at that point, you're there because you truly believe people will be better off without you. That by not existing the world will be a better place. I ended up in hospital the first time and when I came out I just carried on. At that point, I still didn't comprehend just how bad it was and I did nothing about it. So, a couple more years passed. A couple more years of feeling awful, depressed, sad whatever you want to call it. I wasn't myself, but still I took no action.
It was the second time I tried to kill myself that I took a step back and said 'I need help'.
The military isn't the kind of environment where you feel like you can openly talk about your problems. But once I did, I was amazed by how much support was out there. I started going to group therapy and that was what changed my life. I was suddenly surrounded by people who felt the same. People who had tried to kill themselves. People who didn't fully understand what was going on but now we were all together trying to figure it out. There were people who were going through what I was going through. I wasn't alone. I wasn't alone.
The hardest part is taking that first step to acknowledge something is wrong and that you need help. You feel alone. But I wasn't.
I wasn't looking for someone with all the answers or to 'fix' me. All I wanted was for someone to understand what has going on and to listen. Someone to not make me feel stupid but to accept me for who I am and be there when I needed them. Having depression doesn't define me but it is part of who I am. I have my low days. I have days when I can feel this wave of dread wash over me and I'm lucky that I know when it's happening and I have my coping mechanisms. I go to the gym, I do some exercise or I talk to someone.
I left the army. I don't believe it was the cause of my depression but it played a huge part in it and I know I'll spend a long time trying to understand what happened. I've recently trained as a barber because it's the perfect place to talk, to get to know someone and to help them if you see something is wrong. To ask if they are okay. If they need help. I wish someone had said the same to me.
The reason I'm so open about it is because I want to help those who are going through the same problems and fighting similar demons as I have. People wouldn't think twice about approaching the subject of, say, a broken leg with someone and it should be no different with a mental health issue. Once people can get past that hurdle of not knowing what to say to someone, the sooner the stigma towards mental health will be lifted.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Today is a reminder to ask the guys in your life how they're really doing. I'm working with the Movember Foundation, the men's health charity, to make these conversations easy. Check out Movember.com/iwanttoask for some simple steps to do this. It is ok to ask if someone is ok, just to know someone is thinking about you can make a world of difference.
Useful websites and helplines:
Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 UK and ROI (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill)
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
The Mix is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41
Maytree is a sanctuary for the suicidal in north London in a non-medical setting. For help or to enquire about a stay, call 020 7263 7070