When I was 16 years old, my Father took his own life in our family home.
Having witnessed both the effects of depression on my Dad and experienced the shock and bereavement myself, raising awareness of the issue of mental health is truly important to me. We lost Dad on 29th March 2000 since which time there have been several high-profile cases of male suicide, such as Gary Speed (Footballer) but countless more low profile cases. In fact, the biggest killer of men in the UK under 45 is suicide. It is an issue that is growing. But very positively awareness is growing at the same time.
What I witnessed in my Dad was, I believe, a classic case of male suicide. Dad was a successful business man with a long-established career and as a family we were very privileged. The business that he worked for decided to rationalise their operations and Dad was effectively forced into retirement. Dad sought to fill that void with other business interests, one of which resulted in a stressful legal situation. This loss of purpose, combined with the worry of a potential legal battle and an increasing concern about financially providing for his family were the catalysts for his depression. Dad was a proud man who wanted to provide, but he we also a formal gentleman who suffered from a stiff upper lip. The effect on Dad of this illness was stark. He would be unable to get out of bed in the morning, he would worry about minor concerns and he was not forthcoming with explaining his feelings. Mum paid for professional help, but this resulted in her being excluded which I feel was a BIG mistake. Ultimately, Dad was medicated for his depression and it was during a period of transition between drugs which involved a week of no medication, when he took his own life.
I am raising money for this charity to help avoid situations like this. To this day I avoid telling people that my Dad killed himself, and I don’t know why, because I am not ashamed, it is more because the conversation is such a hard one to have.
Heads Together is having this conversation. They will help improve the understanding of mental health at a medical and a social level. The correct understanding of my Dad’s condition and appropriate monitoring would have avoided the situation where he felt utterly helpless.
I have personally learnt from the years that followed that emotional stress can spiral quickly out of control. Genuinely, the best solution is talking. It releases the pressure valve, it offers a different perspective and it gets your thoughts in the open.
I’d encourage anyone who feels isolated or depressed to find one person they trust and bend their ear off. The phrase “I’m depressed” is too commonplace and often masks the real severity if someone is truly suffering. In support, be belligerent, don’t let someone you are concerned about not talk to you, sometimes it can take your forceful approach to break through their haze.
Exercise plays a huge part in my life. I took up triathlon and running seven years ago. This was not a direct response to the loss of my Dad but it greatly helps me stay mentally and emotionally balanced, exercise is a great leveller. Sense of achievement is a great drug, running a marathon, or completing any event that is ostensibly beyond your capabilities gives you an enormous sense of well-being. This combined with the focus necessary for a training programme can provide real structure to a day/week/month and you can take great encouragement from the fact that you are doing things other people aren’t!
I can’t wait to run London and will do so hugely proud to be representing this great charity and shedding light on this dark subject.