Mental health affects everyone in some way, shape or form; even the stunner behind the bar, the celeb who ‘has it all’ and ‘Bob’ next door. Problem is, you can't see it and it can be hidden - but it's still there.
I felt really low after some family issues and being a bloke from Africa, it's not something you let known. I was trying to plug my way through a number of emotions; feeling low, let down, abandoned, anxiety - you name it. I lost a lot of weight and couldn’t sleep.
I had to let work know I was struggling and the reasons behind it; working with heavy machinery was a risk not only for me but for my colleagues. I was referred to a psychologist through work, as they had an employee assistance programme.
“It was difficult to discuss things with a stranger at first, to let my feelings show, because even blokes can get vulnerable.”
A friend going through something similar took his own life and that really hit me hard. We used to bounce off and encourage each other – a support no more. As I had no family around, I confided in my two closest friends: JJ and CT. Having people you can talk to, without the fear of being judged, opens up the floodgates: I started responding to questions about my problems at home, talking about the anger I held around not being able to see my kids at the time.
After the first three visits to my psychologist, she was concerned and I ended up going for a further three sessions. I was asked how I felt when my friend took his life. My answer? Jealous. At the time, I was genuinely jealous that all his problems were gone and he no longer had to deal with all those head swirling emotions.
I knew I had hit rock bottom when I became close to attempting suicide myself, but luckily a stranger stopped me. I don't recall who they were, or how I even got there, but thank goodness for them being there at that time.
“JJ and CT stood by and supported me through what, for them, must have been difficult, as I did lean on them so much.”
JJ has moved but we still keep in touch and I see CT every week. The real 'constant' was my work, the guys at work and my two best friends. I still have good and bad days and I'm still dealing with the anxiety, but this has been helped by me having access to my beautiful children.
Maybe the light at the end of the tunnel is normal and the tunnel is a way of getting there. Work, close friends and a complete stranger helped me through the most difficult times. Sometimes all it takes is to ask someone "are you ok?”
So do that: ask the stunner, the celeb and ‘Bob’ next door "are you ok?".
You may just save a life.