After a suicide attempt Robert finally reached out for support. This led him to ‘The Changing Room’, a SAMH project which uses the power of football to get men in their middle years talking about mental health.
“2018 was a really bad year for me. It was like the perfect storm, everything built up over a year. By the end of that year I thought the only way to deal with it was suicide.
“After an attempt in early 2019, I opened up to my wife for the first time about how I had been feeling. Telling her was an amazing thing, like I was unburdening myself.
“The next day I went to see my GP, she told me that I might benefit from a support group or counselling. I’d heard about The Changing Room before, which I mentioned and she encouraged me to give it a go. After speaking to the doctor I left feeling even more unburdened, like at least I’m taking control now.
“I’m a lifelong Hearts fan, and I love football. Growing up, my Uncle Danny, who had played for the team, was my hero. My first meeting at The Changing Room was at the Big Hearts offices: there were pictures on the wall of my Uncle Danny, which put me at ease.
“One of the things that’s so important about The Changing Room is that it gets past the stigma. Men are reluctant to talk about how they feel. But put it in a stadium where many men already have an attachment and we are already emotionally engaged. This makes it easier to open up about how you feel, because you’re already there.
“I felt like I was on my own, but suddenly I was in a room with 10 other people and although we all have our own stories, reasons and lives, there is so much about the experience that is shared: the love of football but also pain, the trauma and the tears, we all have that common thread. Early on I remember thinking I’m worth my place in this group, not only is it helping me feel better but I’m going to be part of making other people in this group feel better. I felt worth a lot, and for a long time I didn’t feel like I was worth much.
“The Changing Room completely transformed my life, and it all started with that conversation about mental health.”