Express & Star

COMMENT: Depression is an epidemic we can fight by talking

Someone once said to me that trying to explain depression is like describing a new colour that hasn't existed before. But I'm going to try.


I was first diagnosed with depression in my late twenties, and it intensified in my early thirties after my first experience of bereavement, writes Pete Cashmore.

Over the next few years, depressive episodes came frequently, and came hard, taking me out of circulation, out of life, for days at a time.

The best way I can describe what I was experiencing was a wasting disease of the will.

It's a total shutdown. The simplest of tasks become insurmountable – washing, dressing, sleeping, eating.

So you tend to just lie in bed, alone with your thoughts, and ride it out, trying to remind yourself that it will pass eventually, at some point.

And what thoughts they can be, horrible, ghastly things, with a voice inside your head, your own voice but one over which you have no control, telling you: you know there's a way out of this, don't you?

You know it would be better for you, if this was all over, right?

I've learned, over time, to not listen to that voice. But the terrible statistics show that many, many young men are listening to the voice, and agreeing with it. 12 men a day. That's absolutely horrendous. 39 per cent of men in the West Midlands have thought about taking their own lives. That's also horrendous. That's an epidemic. But what's the cure?

I know what isn't the cure, and that's bottling it up. Men have to talk about it, and acknowledge that admitting you are having difficulty is not an act of weakness.

It doesn't make you less of a man to experience depression; rising up against it and saying, "I'm going to fight this tooth and nail" is the most manly thing I've ever done.

But I've been lucky where many are not. I have a strong support network of friends, many of whom have had similar experiences to mine. My family are close by, and my partner is supportive.

Moving home from London really did the trick – in a sense, coming back home to Wolverhampton saved my life, and that's not a phrase you hear every day.

But then, like I say, I've been lucky. Many men clearly are not. Depression thrives on solitude, feeds on it and grows stronger. Bottling it up isn't an option – it will break that bottle. And 'snapping out of it' – which you may well find yourself being advised to do – is just not that simple.

It's great that our region actually has the lowest percentage in the UK of men who have had suicidal thoughts, but 39 per cent is still a hell of a lot. Four young men in ten, pretty much,thinking of ending their lives. Again, horrendous.

If you're in pain, talk to someone.

And if someone comes to you for help, then please, please, listen to them.

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