Steve’s story

"If you’ve got a broken arm, you put a cast on it. But with mental health, people don’t talk about it because they’re embarrassed, especially men around my age.

"I’m quite old school. I’d never take tablets, never go to the doctor or anything like that. The idea of taking antidepressants scared me, but I’m on anti-depressants now and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

"My dad died when I was four and my mum never wanted me. She loved my older sister but made it perfectly clear that she didn’t want any more kids and I was ‘a mistake’. I was always left out, never really had Christmas or birthdays, and I used to get hit a lot. It was the rejection. When you’re treated like that, being told you’re not wanted, you look in the mirror and you hate yourself.

"I was also bullied at school. Once I started fighting back I realised I was good at it, so I used to fight all the time. I never lost a fight and I used to like getting punched because I thought they might kill me, and that would be fine. It’s horrific to feel like that and I carried this round with me all my life, never spoke to anyone about it.

"I don’t drink and I’ve never taken drugs, but when I was older I’d get a small high out of buying things, all the time. In the end my spending got a bit out of control.

"For me, things came to a head during Covid. I’m a joiner and lockdown meant I couldn’t go out to work, which is what was keeping me going, taking my minds off things. I started contemplating suicide, even went out one day with the intention to take my own life.

"I was in such a dark place, a place I thought I couldn’t return from. I was in so much pain, but whenever anyone asked how I was, I’d reply: “I’m fine, absolutely fine.” Even my wife didn’t know.

"It got to the point where I just thought, what am I doing? I need help, I can’t fix this by myself. It took me two weeks to tell my wife – that was a massive weight off my shoulders. Then I started to tell close friends. Most people who’ve known me for years and years couldn’t believe what happened. They’d just seen me be funny and outgoing all the time, because I’d masked everything for so long, it was like a lid.

"A friend let me know about The Changing Room and it’s a miracle really. If that hadn’t happened I really don’t know where I’d be now.

"Before going into that first session I just sat in the car for 10 minutes thinking ‘I don’t want to go in’. But when you start talking to people the same sort of age, and hearing that they’re going through the same things as you, that’s huge. Other blokes there were getting night terrors, suffering from sleep deprivation. I was surviving on two to three hours a night, and had been for 30-odd years.

"The lads from The Changing Room have a WhatsApp group and we chat about everything, even laugh about it. Mental health is not a taboo subject anymore, we’re just chatting away. Five years ago that would have been so embarrassing for me, but the last two years have been the best time of my life. 

"I spoke to my doctor, who put me on anti-depressants. She’s been brilliant. She really took the time to explain how they work, and she was bang on. I didn’t think I’d ever feel as good as this.

"You’re not going to be happy every day, I accept that now. I still get angry about stuff. But on the whole I’m calmer and I let things go over my head. It’s about you controlling it, not letting it control you.

"It’s only when you own up to the fact you’ve got a problem that you can start to feel better. If I can do it, anyone can. It’s the biggest fight I’ve ever won. Don’t waste your life, get this done before it’s too late."