Men are just as likely to struggle with their mental health as women, but they are much less likely to seek the help they need.

Jim ought to know about the importance of getting timely help for mental problems. “I’m employed in social care and over the years have worked with many people who, for various reasons, have struggled with their mental health. I’ve witnessed first-hand the difference early interventions can make. But it’s not always easy to recognise the signs in yourself, particularly when you are in the depths of depression.”

When his mother died two years ago, Jim knew he was struggling with grief, so he turned to his GP for help. Unfortunately, Jim’s GP was unable to refer him for counselling, however emergency contact details were provided to Jim but he took the initiative of seeking help from a counselling service. “I was offered six sessions, and after my fourth, the counsellor said that I was OK. At the time, I think I was and it did help.”

A year down the line, Jim’s mental health had deteriorated, and he even considered taking his own life – yet he didn’t seek the professional help he needed to get well. Jim says that ultimately it was his partner and family who realised he wasn’t coping and urged him to do something about it. “The grief of losing my mother was definitely the trigger to my mental health difficulties, but it was more than that: my poor mental health was also rooted in the Northern Ireland conflict and family difficulties.”

“Even though I live for my father, partner, daughters and grandchildren, at the time I really felt like I could have ended it all. If it hadn’t been for my partner and family urging me to get help, I don’t know what would have happened. Thankfully, I work within the same locality as East Belfast Community Counselling Centre, so it was very easy to make an approach.” 

That was back in July 2019, and for the last four months Jim has seen the same counsellor each week for an hour.  “They made it so easy for me. They arranged for me to see someone immediately, and in a different locality to where I work. I didn’t want my colleagues or service users to know.  I always see the same counsellor, who understands my difficulties and helps me to deal with them.  I get an automated text each week reminding me of my appointment, and generally, every week I feel better than the last. If I do have a bad week, my counsellor and I are able to work though my difficulties. It’s all these little things that mean I’m able to get the help I need and stay well.”