Recently I shared my story of a very tough time in my life with the hope that it might encourage other people to ask for help, or to offer help to those who might need it. I’d had a very stressful time which affected my mental health; this was then followed by a string of difficult life events which made me hit what felt like rock bottom. I shared this story in relation to a new campaign that we’ve designed for West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership (WY HCP) that launched this week ‘Check In with your mate’, as my personal experience of friends checking in on me and supporting me during that time made a big difference and helped me to come through the other side.
After all the words of support I’ve received since sharing my story, I’m taking this opportunity to share what help is available in difficult times and how we can all help those who might need it.
The Check-In With Your Mate campaign builds on the Partnership’s national award-winning staff suicide prevention campaign ‘Check-In’, and aims to raise awareness of the risk factors that may lead to suicide, inspiring people to start conversations about mental health with the men in their life at home, in the community and at work, as well as signposting to local support.
The campaign website is filled with really helpful information and support options for people living in West Yorkshire by area as well as support that is available across the whole of the UK.
You can find support based on the issue you may be facing, including:
- Domestic violence
- Drug support
- Financial support
- Learning disability
- Mental health support
- Parental support
- Suicide Prevention
- Veterans support
- Support specifically for young people
If you live in Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds or Wakefield you can find a wide range of services local to you and they also have services available 24/7 if you or a mate needs help now and you can’t wait. This information is now all in one place to help people in their time of need, and to support you to help your mates.
So please, if you find yourself struggling, or if you think one of your mates might be struggling, help is available now. Check in with your mate.
TRIGGER WARNING: Please read with caution, I am bearing all 🙏
Almost a year ago, I was on the cusp of total burnout, 12 years of tirelessly working, managing more work than any one person should, pushing myself to do more, the pandemic, lockdown, doing 4-5 jobs in one. I could feel my life slipping away.
There was hope… I was working on insight for (what became) our ‘Check-in’ campaign, and listening to all of those brave people who came forward to talk about how suicide had affected them in their personal and working lives as well as their own experiences of poor mental wellbeing.
By talking to others it made me realise ‘something has got to give’ and I made the decision to step away from work and have a year out. I finally felt in control, I was optimistic,I found new energy, I created a studio/cinema in the garden, I started writing again. I was all set.
On the first day of my sabbatical, my partner’s Dad died. The energy shifted. My mental health shifted. My partner of 11 years didn’t tell his parents I existed (another thing I hadn’t realised had affected my mental health), on top of that his mental health changed and one day I came home to find my bags packed. A perfect storm. I was homeless.
My perfect year out turned into my worst year ever, I was completely lost. I thought I was at my lowest point with all of my work stress, I wasn’t prepared for this upheaval. I’d reached an all-time low. Sofa surfing and relying on the goodness of some amazing friends and family to get me through until I could comprehend. The feeling of utter humiliation and failure made me spiral into even lower depths.
I thought ‘I don’t want to be here anymore’.
A good friend reminded me ‘sometimes you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you just have to go through it. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself any emotions, you’ll get through’.
This boosted me a bit but then things got worse, a car crash killing two family members – I told myself, ‘compartmentalise’, this is big, need to be strong, need to grieve this’.
That was tough.
Then, my uncle had undiagnosed/misdiagnosed cancer throughout the Covid period when we couldn’t get in to see doctors. He was terminal, he had 11 days in utter poor health before he died.
I tried to tell myself ‘you have to live for your uncle, you can’t give up when so many people are losing lives who want to live’.
Deep inside I wanted to believe this but it wasn’t sinking in. However, it eventually did start sinking in.
I tried to get professional help but all the services I attempted were full. I wasn’t ready for a social group.
By having conversations and contact with good friends, I managed to claw my way back to my old self and a year on I’m in a really strong place.
No one is exempt from poor mental well-being but checking in and talking with others can, and does, save you.
I’m proud to co-own a business for which we don’t just design campaigns, we relate to (sometimes even live) them.
This is what our latest campaign is about. I am lucky/unlucky to run a business that we don’t just ‘design’, we actually ‘live’.