Did you know that suicide is the biggest killer of men up to the age of 49 in the UK? In his blog, Suffolk-born military intelligence analyst Joe Tyrrell talks about his struggles with mental health while being in the army.
“There’s a certain perception of being in the military. It’s a male-dominated industry in which you are expected to be in peak physical and mental condition at all times.
“It never occurred to me for a second that I would become victim to mental health issues.
“In all honesty, I never really understood it. I’d had a few friends go through some awful periods of low moods and I always tried to be supportive.
“It was just never something I thought would happen to me.
“I’d always assumed that mental health issues only came about if something tragic happened, but I realise now this isn’t the case.
“Last year, I obtained a pretty serious injury to my ankle which prevented me from doing any exercise. As someone who was in peak physical condition, I gained weight quickly and things went into a downward spiral from there.
“Not being able to do my job as well as I could started to affect me and I began to have some horrible thoughts in my head.
“I thought I was worthless and a burden. I never spoke up because I thought I was being over-dramatic. I couldn’t sleep – I’d maybe get 1-2 hours a night for weeks and I stopped taking care of myself.
“I completely shut down. I made silly mistakes at work – and these mistakes only added to the reasons I thought I was absolutely worthless.
“It wasn’t until my sister asked me what was wrong that I actually talked about what was going on. She helped me write a letter to my boss and I got booked in to see a doctor the very next day.
“The initial appointment was tough. I went back to my room and cried for two hours – I’d been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, anxiety and insomnia.
“I was the lowest I’d ever been.
“At that point I wrote a note, telling my loved ones how much they meant to me and apologising for what I was about to do.
“As if by some sign, I’d written this note on the back of a mental health support pamphlet I had been given at the appointment. I rang the 24/7 support number.
“A lot has changed since that call – nine months of stuff to be precise.
“The army were absolutely incredible in getting me the support I needed. The treatment and the understanding I received from them was amazing.
“I’m on medication – they’re not magical but they are really working for me. I’m in such a better place I can’t even describe it.
“Did you know men are three times for likely to take their own life? I nearly became a part of this statistic.
“Lads – we need to talk.
“I’m speaking up because we need to break this stigma of ‘manning up’ and being ‘tough’ as a man. In the army especially, where there’s a lot of the macho, keep your head down and march on kind of mentality.
“Talk to anyone. Just make sure you speak up. Break the stigma.”
If you need support, you can contact the Samaritans 24/7 on 116 123 or CALM on 0800 58 58 58 from 5pm – midnight (this service is aimed at men aged 15 – 35.