I felt as though I was sinking. Now – I’m a swimmer.
Ian experienced bad anxiety and rang Samaritans -a call he describes as a lifesaver in a very dark time.
My son and I go camping together and decided to do a sponsored ‘sleep out’ in our garden to raise money for Samaritans. It was the end of March (2021) and it was freezing. We did the Saturday night and raised £850 in total. We were so excited about the fact that people had donated – we did the Sunday night too! The whole experience was fantastic.
I was really taken aback when the money started coming in. Seeing where the donations came from was also really touching – friends on Facebook and from overseas. My son was extremely proud.
I think being open with my son about mental health is also really important. We have a very open relationship and it’s important my son knows he can talk about his feelings. To be able to talk about that and explain that we’re fundraising for Samaritans because it’s something genuinely matters to me was also a good part of the experience. I cannot say highly enough how proud we are to raise that amount of money.
I’ve always been aware of what Samaritans do. There have been two occasions where it’s been a big support to me. There was a Christmas a long time ago where I felt quite down during that period. My partner at the time wasn’t openly out as gay to his family and wanted to go home, meaning I spent Christmas alone. On Christmas eve, I was extremely low. I rang Samaritans and that phone call got me through what was a very dark time. Christmas is such an emotive time – families, being together… and there I was on my sofa on my own. The call was so helpful for me in that moment and during the festive period.
Then, in 2009, there was a day where everything got on top of me. I was feeling suicidal. I was working in the centre of London and there is a Samaritans branch in Soho, I went there on my way home. I knew Samaritans was there and I knew it was a non-judgemental space. At a time where I didn’t feel like I could even talk to my partner – I needed someone I didn’t know to just sit and let me feel vulnerable and Samaritans were there.
I think what’s really crucial is the whole non-judgemental sense of things – a soothing ear where one can say whatever comes to mind without thinking that you yourself have failed. When people have those periods of depression – it’s easy to think, ‘I should pull myself together’ or ‘what have I got to worry about’. Having someone who says "it doesn’t matter what you want to say, you can say it and I will listen," is an extraordinary thing.
It’s exceptional to think that if someone needs support, 24 hours a day, that Samaritans are there to offer that.
I think the idea of stigma around mental health has moved on somewhat but not a lot. To anyone who is struggling, I would say you have to let go of the idea of shame. Shame can be a huge barrier; thoughts of ‘I’m ashamed of myself/let myself down, I’m ashamed to tell someone I fell this way, I’m afraid to tell someone I’m not coping’... Shame is the absolute enemy in the face of mental struggle and difficulty. The whole point of Samaritans is – there is no shame.