One of the stars of our campaign video, Stephen, spoke to us about the first time he spoke about his mental health, and the small things his wife and daughter do to support him.
Q. When did you first talk about your mental health?
I’d been away for a couple of days with work – we had gone away somewhere in Europe. When I got back to the office after that trip, one of my colleagues said something to me that made me question whether I was the right person for the job. I just started turning that thought over in my head and it began to eat away at me. That night, I came home from work, got a cup of coffee and sat on the sofa with my wife and daughters. I knew something wasn’t right: I felt like a cork on a champagne bottle.
Q. What was it like to talk about it for the first time?
I just said that I wasn’t feeling well, and then I started shaking and crying. I had the feeling that my whole world had come crashing down. Part of me felt I was being a being a bit of a softie, because I hadn’t really cried or shown my emotions up to that point. I was always the protector – the big fella to turn to if anything went wrong. But I didn’t feel like the same person: I just didn’t feel strong any more.
Q. How did your family respond?
They weren’t used to seeing me like that. My wife brought me a cup of coffee, and my daughters were giving me hugs and telling me that no matter what, I was still their dad. My youngest daughter said she would still be proud of me no matter what happens to me. My wife phoned the out of hours doctor and I made a appointment to see the GP.
Q. How do your family help you at the moment?
My daughter Ellie has been with me from the start – she’s seen me both as a big strong dad who wouldn’t admit he had a problem and as someone who’s unwell and a bit vulnerable. We go fishing together a lot. There’s a little pond nearby that we go to: you can hear the birds and the wind in the trees. Ellie’s great at fishing: she can pick fish out of the middle of the Gobi desert, that one.
She’s stuck by me through thick and thin, though, and it really helps me for us to have time together. I like to spend time with her now to pay her back for having belief in me, and sticking by me when other people wouldn’t. She’s my biggest supporter.
Q. What do you want people to know about mental health?
I want people to know they don’t have to bottle up their problems. Men often don’t admit there’s anything wrong – we just have a couple of cans of beer and try to get on with it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s why I’m really open about my experience – I would shout loud and proud from the rooftop that I have a mental health problem. It’s part of who I am: I can’t undo it, there’s no erase button or rewind button. I’m still me.
Do you want to learn about the small things you can do? Find out more and add your own.
Watch Stephen's video on our YouTube channel.