Mental health was the great taboo. If you were anxious, it’s because you were weak.
If you couldn’t cope with whatever life threw at you, it’s because you were failing.
Successful, strong people don’t suffer like that, do they? But of course – we all do. It’s just that few of us speak about it.
It was suicide, a subject that is so often hidden. The suicide rate among young men in this country is an appalling stain on our society.
But I got interested in mental health for another reason. One that was related to my work as an Air Ambulance pilot.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 40 in this country. Not cancer, not knife crime, not road deaths — suicide.
If one of these other issues took so many young lives, there would be a national outcry. This silence is killing good people.
For Catherine and Harry, their journeys to Heads Together were different: Harry predominately through his work with veterans, and Catherine through her work with children and young families. But their conclusions were the same — that mental health needed to be brought out of the dark and de-stigmatized.
On average it takes a sufferer 10 years to admit to a problem.
This means that what often starts as a fairly minor issue becomes something serious and medical after time. Silence can kill; but talking can lead to help and support.
I was already experiencing the benefits of this open, positive approach to mental health in my work in Search and rescue and as an Air Ambulance pilot.
In both these environments, every member of the crew is actively encouraged to admit to when we are feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope, whatever the cause – our work or our home life.
My employer, I’m proud to say, knows about the value of normalizing mental health, and treating it with the same respect that we confer on physical health. This should be the norm.