October 15, 2012

Mark Williams, the founder of fathersreachingout.comWhen I told people I had depression, they were shocked. People saw me as a happy-go-lucky person and always smiling but in fact I was crying inside. I didn't know that, after having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, I had underlining depression for many years and dealt with it by overspending and drinking too much. The stigma of depression can be a massive weight on someone's shoulders. If it wasn't there it would be easier to talk and not to keep it in and suffer in silence.

I only came out when I hit the bottom and was sitting in a car crying with no one to turn to for help. It was then that I was at my worst. I didn't care what people thought. If we can teach and educate people now, the future for people with mental illness will and can get better. This will mean less families splitting up and children having better role models.

It was when I first looked after my wife with postnatal depression that I started being educated about mental health. By the time Michelle had her second bout seven years later, I was an expert. I had been through that black hole myself but knew about the support available and what was needed to fight this black dog and beat it.

I just wish that I had picked up the phone earlier

One in four people will experience mental health problems in any given year. And they can’t all be wrong. The amount of friends and people who are opening up now due to people knowing that I had the black dog has started people talking about it. I feel so proud to tell people about my so called weakness and, in fact, it has made me a better person. I just wish that I had picked up the phone earlier. It would saved a lot of time spent thinking "where am I going?"

Having gone through depression myself, I decided to set up an awareness and support system for fathers/carers for people suffering with postnatal depression called fathersreachingout. While the illness is being treated the man/carer has to deal with the bills, work, money, school/hospital runs, the household, children and the stigma of mental health problems.

If families didn’t have to worry about the stigma of mental illness than people could seek help more quickly

If families didn’t have to worry about the stigma of mental illness than people could seek help more quickly and recovery would be sooner. Due to the stigma it is even harder when a baby is born, as it is supposed to a happy time in one’s life. People expect you to be happy and but this is not always the case. It's the stigma that causes women to tell their partners not to say anything and this adds to the isolation for the person. This can cause the partner/carer to become depressed or can even cause a breakdown in family life with a potentially devastating effect on the children involved.

We never talked about cancer years ago but now it is frequently talked about and discussed. Mental health is the last taboo subject and should be talked about openly in workplaces, antenatal classes and other resources. After all it is an illness but we just can't see it.

I can't wait to see end of the stigma of mental health problems.

I can't wait to see end of the stigma of mental health problems. And with projects run by charities like Mind and Rethink Mental Illness and the amazing work of Time to Change, we're not going to be far away.

Mark is founder of fathersreachingout.com and author of Mark Williams reaching out. He has also made the finals of the Pride of Britain Awards, and has also been shortlisted for a Mind Media Award!

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