I want to help change the perception of men who experience eating disorders, depression and other mental health conditions

I am a husband, a Daddy to my three beautiful young children, a Mental Health Nurse,   with a good circle of friends, and a person who is confident in who they are and confident about what they want out of life. I was a contributor on the Channel 4 mental health stigma and discrimination documentary “World's Maddest Job Interview”. The documentary featured a panel of business experts and viewers tried to identify which out of the eight contributors had lived with significant mental illness in the past. Some of the contributors had not. I was one of those contributors who said, at the time, that they had not ever experienced any form of mental illness.

So why would I be writing this blog on bulimia and depression? Well, I said at the time of the documentary that I wanted break down the stigma surrounding mental health and raise awareness for those who had lost someone through suicide, like I had. But what I was terrified of admitting and coming forward to talk about at the time, was my very own battle with mental illness, and that I had also tried ending my own life.

My own family never knew of my pain 

From the age of eleven which is when I first started my “strange behaviour” (as I called it back then) to when I fell feet first into my very own black hole from the age of fourteen through to thirty. I had been living with bulimia and, by the time of my late teens had crept up on me, I was experiencing depression.

My reason for me talking about my mental illness now is simply because I now feel ready to encourage others, and to finally talk about the something that I have kept a secret from friends and work colleague since I tried to end my life and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for five weeks in 1999.

The pain and suffering that I had to injure, as a young man growing up, still lives with me, my own family never knew of my pain, it was all my very own kept secret. Bulimia took over my life, and depression nearly ended it.

Taking about eating disorders and depression in men need not be a taboo subject

To talk about it then was something that I dare not do; things are changing but it is still hard for men in particular to talk so open about bulimia, depression, and suicide. These are still seen as taboo subjects, with huge stigma attached. Talking about eating disorders and depression in men needs to be accepted. And no longer a taboo subject. And for someone who was suffering from an eating disorder, particularly as a young man, the silence that surrounds mental health adds fuel to the silence you suffer with an eating disorder.

I want to help change the perception of men who suffer from mental illness and challenge their stigmatising and discriminatory attitudes towards mental illness.

Men and mental health professionals experience mental health problems too

By speaking out I hope I can encourage other men to seek professional help, and as a mental health nurse with lived experience of mental illness it will enable other health professionals to have the confidence to speak out. Mental health professionals are deemed to be the last people you would expect to have mental health problems, but in my experience this is wrong. We are human after all, we are no different to those who suffer in silence.

There are those who work in mental health right now, too afraid to come forward because of the stigma that’s surrounds a mental health worker with mental illness.

Now as a mental health nurse I see all ranges of mental illness and myself do not judge those who have a mental illness as I know first-hand just how difficult and self-destructing living with a mental illness can be.

Being diagnosed with a mental health condition is nothing to be ashamed of

I’m a stronger person now and by highlighting my past illness it will help me gain positive attributes rather than being treated on the basis of having suffered mental illness. Having had an eating disorder and depression I will now be able to respond to those people and educate them on how difficult it is to live with. I am sure some people will see a different side of me now; the people who matter to me will take me as they know me now.

I am still the same person as before but a lot happier inside as well as out. I believe I am wiser as I have learnt to cope with my bulimia and depression, and can safely say for the first time in my life I am now happy with myself. What will make me even happier and my work even more worthwhile is by people recognising that being diagnosed with a mental health condition is nothing to be ashamed of.

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Comments

Great blog Craig. I too was

Great blog Craig. I too was an RMN and ended up being admitted for detox from the huge amount of stuff I was self medicating with. I'd say we were a higher risk group if anything, but hey, what doesn't kill ya makes ya stronger, and more empathetic!

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Hi Chris, thanks for taking the time to comment, hope you are doing well in life

Mental Health - fighting stigma

I am a Mental Health Service User and Governor of my local Healthcare Trust. I have endured effects of stigma for years, mostly from within the services, hence my work as a Governor, doing what I can to promote awareness and dispel ignorance, which i think is the reason for most peoples attitude. Well done for speaking out Craig. I imagine you are a very good nurse.

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Hi, thank you for your comment, keep up your great work, more awareness will hopefully close the gap on stigma in mental health

Conditioning to be "tough" is killing men

I can really resonate with your situation. In April 2001 I very nearly became a suicide statistic for 2 reasons - Lack of understanding/knowledge about what was happening to me - Inbuilt believe/values that as a man I had to just "toughen up" It wasn't until I stood and looked at what was left of my car that I realised I had a problem and needed help. This was a harder decision than anything I had ever done. I was so conditioned and had the "men are tough and strong " blah blah blah rammed down my throat for 36 years that I felt more upset about being weak and needing help than what was causing me to feel this way. Since then I had gradually educated myself and become an advocate for mental health education. As a society we have to change these outdated, harmful societal standards that our young men and boys are being raised with to ensure we stop the epidemic of self harm and worse that is engulfing men around the world. Thank you for writing this. I have written about another experience just a few years ago where I felt like I was going down the same rabbit hole but for entirely reasons.

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thanks for taking the time to comment, I hope you are well, when I read comments like your I know that I made the right decision to speak out

So brave

Well done Craig, so brave of you to speak out publicly about your issues. I'm a carer in a dementia unit and know how strange people find it to know I have mental health problems yet are caring for vulnerable people, and it's an important issue to raise. Glad to hear you're doing well now. Keep up the good work! :)

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Hi Thank for your lovely comment, I do appreciate it. I have been moved by comments and messages

Thank you.

Well done, and thank you Craig for sharing your story. I think it would be great if all Mental Health professional in particular could walk the walk and talk the talk like you, and speak out. keep up the good work. p.s I remember working with you when you was a student nurse, and even then you spoke up for the patients to insure good patient care. It is story's like yours that will really help go a long way to help fight the stigma around mental health.

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Hi Nana, hope your are well, thanks for your comment, I hope it will inspire others to speak out.

I admire you !

I have the utmost respect and admiration for what you have achieved . The experiences you have gone through , though extreemely painful make you a better nurse, as a textbook could never give you the empathy and understanding you now have . We need more people like you . I too suffer from mental health problems which have destroyed my career as a doctor and aspiring psychiatrist .

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Hi Kerry thank you very much for your touching comment, I am sorry to hear of your own experience, I hope you remain well, and maybe one day reach your own goal, take care

I know how hard that is! Inspiring!

Hi Craig, firstly thanks for following me on twitter, means a lot. I took interest straight away seeing you were a qualified nurse and also that you had done a documentary. What I didn't realise was that you had also been a victim of 'that dark hole' that can consume us! I understand bulimia too but not how it feels to live with it. You have been able to find the strength to talk openly about this which is amazing as it will help others in all walks of life! The stigma surrounding mental health makes me feel physically sick! In 2007 I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder after years of battling with deep dark episodes of depression and the year later I went on to work in a medium secure unit in Northampton for several years as a HCA and then decided to commence my nurse training in 2012. I have recently suffered another relapse after the birth of my son(now 6 months) and these last 10 weeks for us as a family have been complete utter hell! Not only do you realise people don't want to speak about it also some health professionals (who should understand) are not compassionate or seem to be able to remember the term 'therapeutic relationship' I was lucky to have been supported by some amazing mental health nurses within my local crisis team, sometimes I feel that psychiatrists could benefit from being abit more compassionate as they seem to lack the skills hard working nurses have.(my opinion as seen many psychiatrists) Anyway maybe one day our paths will cross as we share similar viewpoints. I am due to return to the final year of my nurse training in feb 2015 although right now I'm still questioning whether I will even bother as since I've become Ill most of mine university cohort completely cut me off which at the time devastated me! Mental strength is the key to all this however unfortunately the NHS in this country is lacking some important therapies that for example America is using there. I read Benjamin Frys book which discussed this and it caused me to weap! So much can still be done and people like us who are passionate enough about it will one day make a significant difference! Keep doing what your doing and look out for me too :) Your an inspiration for many others. Jenny Hames

Moved

Respect Craig...courageous and for the right reasons.

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