I never imagined that I could be affected by a series of events in my personal life that would leave me feeling confused, scared, isolated, and unsure of how to get help.
In early 2018 I was suffering very badly with depression, although I didn't realise this at the time. I wasn’t sleeping very well, I was drinking heavily and eating all the wrong foods. Initially, I thought that perhaps these were down to various circumstances, but it didn’t flag up to me it could all be connected to my mental health declining. I found myself going to work each day, putting on my mask pretending everything was fine, knowing full well it wasn’t, and just counting down until finishing work at 5pm so I could go home draw the curtains and drink some more, my own little tactic for escapism.
A friend of mine suggested that I get some help, and suggested Andy’s Man Club (AMC), a self-help group run by Luke Ambler and a great team of volunteers. Fortunately, there was a group at the town hall in Hebden Bridge, so I was able to attend, and it was there I met and became good friends with the facilitator of the group, Doug, who is now a co-founder and fellow director of Unmasked. His back story was a real eye opener for me, yet he still remained positive and cheerful throughout which made me realise there is a way out of this, if I was prepared to open up about what was happening and how I was feeling, I also could learn to process and deal with my own mental health.
I have worked in the construction industry for many years, and as a trade, construction is working hard to remove any stigma surrounding male mental health issues, however this still remains an uphill struggle. In my role as a site foreman, I felt any sign of illness would be associated with weakness and would result in exploitation by some individuals on the site, and as such I remained silent.
It is fair to say that in early 2018, I was at my lowest. Attending AMC where I met Doug, I also met Logan, another co-founder and director of Unmasked who had his own experience dealing with mental health issues, gave me great insight into what good or bad mental health can look and feel like. Although he had not personally experienced mental health himself, he was living with it in his personal life, and his attitude to supporting others and wanting to make a change I found inspirational. It was from these early meetings that Unmasked Mental Health was born, with Doug and Logan having the idea of wanting to be forefront of the battle to remove the stigma surrounding poor mental health. I was fortunate enough to be able to invest in the initial Unmasked concept, a free app that is used to connect likeminded peers that experience similar mental health issues and can offer and receive support, choosing to be anonymous or not. Unmasked was born in February 2019, and since then we now offer 3 services, our app, a low-cost counselling service and peer-run support hubs each Thursday in various locations around the UK.
Although my mental health has improved significantly in the last 3 years, I still have periods of uncertainty, a little bit of self-doubt and possibly always will have. I know that I am in such a better place now with my attitude and awareness towards my mental health, mostly because I spoke up and sought help, something I am so glad I did. I found someone to talk to who wanted to listen, and for that I am so grateful. I am happy to say today that my mental health is good, and I want to do all I can to promote to others the importance of speaking out to help themselves.
Unmasked Co-founder and Director