In 2003, Simon noticed changes in the way he was feeling. He had been struggling with depression, but things got worse. Worried about what people might be thinking of him, he avoided going out and meeting his friends.
His GP diagnosed him with agoraphobia and referred him to a mental health team. But he was still struggling to cope, Simon explains:
As a man, it is still difficult to open up about the way you feel. It isn’t 'manly' to seem vulnerable, to share your feelings. The trouble is, for men who are battling depression, this expectation can be damaging. If you carry on bottling things up, overtime they will overwhelm you.
Simon is in a better place, though he still battles with mental health difficulties. Until 2014, depression and agoraphobia affected every part of his life:
"It isn’t easy to explain how isolating depression can be. It’s as though you are stuck in this dark bubble, without any way of seeing out. People can see that you are finding life tough, but don’t know how to help. By about 2005, having been so withdrawn for such a long time, social situations were hard for me. My family used to come around, encouraging me to just get out of the house. I would point blank refuse, I just couldn’t go outside - the thought was too scary.
"I spent the best part of a decade feeling alone with the way that I was feeling. I think this is part of the reason why I would feel suicidal. These thoughts and feelings lead me to attempt to take my own life on more than one occasion."
Unhappy with the way he was feeling in 2014, Simon contacted Samaritans.
He says: "I heard of Samaritans and I knew that they were there to listen. But before I called them, I didn’t realise what a positive impact their support would have on my life.
"I remember hesitating the first time I called, feeling unsure about what to say. I managed to open up to the Samaritan at the end of the phone. He gave me the time and space to talk. He listened and rather than dolling out advice, helped me work my way through.
"I explained that I was thinking about taking my own life. He wanted me to walk to the branch to meet face to face. The thought of this was so overwhelming - it took me everything just to leave the front door.
"The volunteer remained on the phone with me until I was just a short walk from the front door. I was welcomed with a warm smile, before sitting down to talk about what was making me feel so down and depressed. I was told I could come back whenever I wanted to and that I didn’t need to feel alone.
"Knowing that there is someone there, around the clock to listen, has improved my quality of life. I no longer feel alone, with nobody to understand. The day I chose to get in touch with Samaritans, I took back some control."
Simon says that with hindsight, he should have reached out to Samaritans sooner. He hopes that by sharing his story, fewer men will suffer in silence:
"Ignoring the way you are feeling doesn’t make it go away. All too often men hold back and keep what is bothering them to themselves. The trouble is, if you try and tackle all your fears alone, you can lose sight of the fact that you can work a way through. Samaritans don’t give advice they listen. They know you are the expert on your own life. And with a listening ear, you can break down your problems into smaller, more manageable ones.
"You can call them on any given day, at any time of day or night."