"Staying quiet about your struggles does not work. Our culture is definitely getting better at talking openly about mental health, but we still have a way to go. Many men still feel ashamed at confessing their own struggles and it’s this shame of the fear of judgement by others which we have to challenge”
Paul Bannister - Founder of ManHealth
I founded ManHealth in late 2015. At this point in my life, I was struggling badly with my depression and because of the stigma attached to speaking out about it struggling to ask for support. I had been aware for many years that I had depression but chose to ignore it and allowed it to control my life. I did what many men do and put on a mask and got on with life. Around this time, a series of life challenges including divorce, restricted access to my daughter, redundancy and the illness of my mother finally made me too unwell to really function; and at this point I was thinking what’s the point? I thought nobody would be able to understand how I was feeling and they would be unable to help me anyway.
I now realise that this is how Depression wants you to think. It wants you to isolate yourself so it can get to work on your mind. It was at this point that I thought to myself, what if I could talk to another man who really understood my pain, someone who had been through it and was able to manage it? I realised that there must be thousands of men who are dying because they are too conditioned by our society to feel ashamed at confessing their struggles and are often told to man up or pull ourselves together when they try to reach out for help.
I threw myself into this distraction and ManHealth was created. ManHealth seeks not just to support men in the communities across County Durham and Northumberland but also to indirectly benefit their families and employers, as well as GPs, the NHS and voluntary sector organisations, which are destinations for men suffering with mental ill health. It is clear that many of these agencies do not always grasp the real need of these men suffering with mental health conditions. Their need for a listening ear; for time to offer advice and give them the knowledge to manage their illness and rebuild their confidence.
ManHealth seeks to be a response to a complex social issue.
Therefore, in some ways I am thankful for my Depression because it forced me to reach out and speak to people. It now no longer has control over my life. We understand one another. Due to regularly talking to friends and family I trust I can control the Black Dog.
Matthew Johnstone, a sufferer himself, wrote the book I had a Black Dog and the video from the book was commissioned by the World Health Organisation. It is moving and uplifting insight into what it is like to have a Black Dog as a companion and how he learned to tame it and bring it to heel. Matthew has kindly given us permission to use it on our site, as I explained how beneficial it was to me. The black dog is an equal opportunity mongrel.