Content warning: This blog discusses suicidal feelings.
I will never forget midnight the 25th January 2008 as it spilled over into 26th January, my eldest daughter’s birthday, and me waking up with my first ever panic attack. Later that morning I was told by a doctor that it was the final straw in my unknowing battle with anxiety/depression. My illness lasted another three months: three months off work and three months of being determined to live as could not see myself leaving my two lovely daughters and wife without a father/husband. Even so, I often thought of taking my own life as the pain and suffering was so bad.
I will not be silenced by the stigma of depression and anxiety
Being a father was, in many ways, a constant reminder of why I had to get better and do everything in my power to get better. In addition, it made me determined not to be silenced by the stigma of depression and anxiety, so I told all. In so doing I got the most amazing support and encouragement - essential ingredients to my recovery and why today I do so much advocating and campaigning for the need to break the stigma. Stigma has killed too many; I knew a father (a very good friend) who I think didn’t feel able to speak out because of stigma. It prevented him from seeking the support, medication and counsel he needed to get better – he ended up taking his own life.
I've experienced mental illness and I know that there is hope
My message to fathers out there is don’t be burdened by the stigma - help is out there for you! Instead of people seeing you as weak (as the stigma makes you feel) people see you as being courageous in being able to talk about what is a real illness. We fathers must learn to share our emotions and feelings more. It is only through sharing our feelings that we can get the early intervention needed to flourish and better manage our illness - versus the all too awful alternative of leaving it all too late, and where there only way out seems to leave others behind. That does not need to be the outcome – I’ve experienced mental illness, and I know that there is hope.
Geoff wrote a longer version of this blog for Huffington Post, called Fathers: Our Wellbeing.