This mental health awareness week, ForHousing’s Andrew Roles shares his experience with battling mental health struggles. After experiencing tragedy and hardship, Andrew has channelled his demons into helping and encouraging others to be open and honest about their own mental health.
Read Andrew’s story below:
My name is Andrew Roles and I am a Trainer/Assessor for ForHousing. In my role, I work with the successful School Links programme that has been set up to offer children aged 13 to 16 an alternative education platform for helping them to succeed in life.
We give them skills that will last a lifetime, ranging from brickwork, joinery, plastering to tiling. But more importantly, we offer them support and encouragement with some of the issues that they may face in life.
In my spare time, I’m a parent, son and friend. I enjoy football, boxing and anything outdoors.
I am also involved with various organisations that support mental health, such as Papyrus (young suicide prevention) and the Mandem meet up, this is a local organisation in Manchester that offers a safe space for males to openly speak out without judgement.
Although this may sound a little bleak, it has been a chain of events that has led me to take an active role in mental health, and only now am I seeing this as a blessing, to enable me to help others.
So, I know what you are thinking, what events led to this point of my life?
On 28 April 2011, I received a call to tell me my friend had sadly passed away. He had taken his own life. At the age of 36, he had left a wife and five children plus many friends and colleagues.
My world got turned upside down in that moment. I was filled with questions like why and how? My friend was an amazing man, never angry, upset and was always the brightest of lights in any room. No one had seen this coming.
This affected me in ways that I could have never imagined and now, 11 years on, the news I received that day is still affecting me, only now in a positive way.
For many years after my friend had passed, I felt that I could have done more. These thoughts lead me to depression. Although at the time I could not identify this as depression, I just thought this was part of life. This depressive state of mind would last a long time effecting all aspects of my life.
Then in 2017 things got a lot harder as my relationship with my son’s mother broke down. Was this through my state of mind, and actions that came with that? Yes! I had been carrying a lot of hate, anger and negativity, that eventually had cost me my family. This led me to the worst position that I had ever been in. I had lost it all. My home, my family, my confidence. Shortly after, this also cost me my business.
I couldn’t cope any more. Life was no longer worth living. But how could I ever get out of this situation? The only thing that was on my mind was doing the same thing that my friend had done and take my own life. But I couldn’t, having seen the effects this had on my friends, family including myself. I could not leave my son and stepson. I could not leave my friends and family even though at the time I felt I had no one.
Things had to change. It was time I opened up and faced some of the problems I had been experiencing.
I took myself to my GP and expressed how I was feeling only to be told take these tablets. But this was not going to sort the problem surely? This was not an option for me as I knew this was only masking my deep routed issues, not taking them away.
I asked the GP if there were any other options and, after waiting over 12 weeks, I finally got access to counselling. I thought this would help but it didn’t. Each week I went to a counselling session, I would tick boxes on a piece of paper expressing how I was feeling.
After the six weeks of counselling nothing had changed, and the counselling had come to an end. I was feeling more alone then ever before and was even wondering if this was my life now.
I then spoke out to a friend. Maybe this was my cry for help. He told me that he has also felt like this and is currently seeing a private therapist. I booked in to see the therapist and started working with her in CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy). This was the beginning of the change and with this, I discovered a lot about the way the mind works, reading books like “The Chimp Paradox” and other self-help style books.
Years on, I feel that I really have full control over my mind. This has come with learning to love myself, and not putting myself in a box. I have done lots of holistic healing therapy such as sound healing and reiki, as well as inner alchemy courses to truly discover the real me.
One thing I now know about me is that having been though some of these difficult experiences around mental health, I have the confidence and ability to speak out, hopefully playing a part of squashing the stigma sounding mental health. Encouraging other people to express their feelings and feeling safe to do so without judgement.
This is something I will be continuing with throughout my life. Working with the organisations such as Mandem Meet Up, Papyrus, and My Mind Matters.
I’m fortunate to work at an organisation like ForHousing that provides lots of help and raises awareness of mental health in many ways. When I talk to people at work, I always encourage them to use the tools available such as the mental health first aiders that are available to anyone at ForHousing.
Anyone who may have read this and can resonate with these feelings and emotions, I would fully encourage to speak out. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
“Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and let’s be friends.”