Martin Lynch (racingpost.com/photos)
This is a tough one. I've resisted writing about James since he tragically took his own life earlier in the year. I knew him well enough to call him friend, and because of that I've resisted posting, especially on here. I didn't want to risk feeling like I could be commercialising his loss.
I realised I had to try and make sense of it, maybe just for my own sake, if not others. Suicide is in my experience the most devastating bereavement alongside murder.
I've personally come too close to the ultimate symptom of poor metal health. I once had the Poison Unit at Guys tell my Dr's that I should be dead given the amount of drugs I had ingested. This was not the only time Guys had been called for my sake. Thankfully I made it. Alive but not cured.
There is no reason why I shouldn't be one of the 4,903 males who died in 2018 at their own hand, that makes suicide the greatest killer of men below the age of 45 in the UK.
Not cancer, car accidents, smoking or drinking. The greatest killer of men under 45 is their own hand.
Suicide, and the mental illness that precedes it, are equal opportunities conditions.
Poor mental health is not choosy. It doesn't solely seek out the poor and the disadvantaged, though they are too highly present in the statistics, but all backgrounds, including high achievers are vulnerable.
The go-to medication for people with anxiety and depression is alcohol. It is our national drug of choice.
Alcohol initially alleviates both conditions remarkably well. Valium, the drug the medical profession doled out for anxiety for so long, has an incredibly similar effect on the body to alcohol. Their affects are so similar, that the Benzodiazepine family of drugs is still used for safe detoxification from alcohol. If you give the body Valium it believes it is still using alcohol, so there is no sudden withdrawal. So it is no accident that anxiety sufferers use alcohol to ease their condition.
Why do depressives seek solace in booze ? Alcohol changes how you feel, and even though its end result is an increase in both depression and anxiety, the immediate dulling of a dangerously low mood is very enticing.
If you live in a world of black, the ability to briefly shift colour, if only to grey or brown, is very seductive. We crave short term relief from a condition that tells you it's permanent.
"You will feel like this forever."
The combination of mental health and alcohol is heady. We know that there are many reasons behind suicide, but there is a strong link between alcohol misuse and suicide – the risk of suicide is as much as eight times greater when someone is abusing alcohol.
I wish I had all the answers. I don't I'm afraid. Read Lee's article and you'll realise how, with all the best will in the world, you can ask the right questions, support for all you're worth, but sometimes you just can't prevent the inevitable.
This doesn't mean to say that you shouldn't be supporting for all your worth. Do keep asking how someone is.
A friend of mine asks her daughter "Do I need to worry about you today?" It opens up the subject without patronising or being overbearing - it communicates that this effects both parent and child. It asks for an honest answer.
Please support their journey into proper psychiatric treatment - remember the G in GP stands for 'General' so do insist on a psychiatric referral.
If I have cancer don't I get referred to an oncologist ? If I have poor mental health I want a proper psych please..be firm if you need. Some GP's are more understanding than others.
By all means empathise with why someone might seek to abuse alcohol and or drugs, but insist that it's ineffective, and that they must seek support for this as well. Tell them it's a well understood by product of poor mental health. Both these issues need different teams, and different approaches.
There is a list of UK support agencies and networks for mental health and addiction at the end of this. Please use them, for your own support as well as theirs.
Not everyone's experience of mental health ends as tragically as James. It is no ones fault, not at least his own.
Do we blame the families of Cancer sufferers for not trying hard enough when it metastasised ?
"If they'd have only tried harder, talked more...."
Like Cancer Mental Health is a killer illness. Remember it kills more males under the age of 45 than anything else. Killer illnesses are, by their very nature, incurable. If there was a solution for this issue we would have found it. Poor mental health is too complex, too personal, too individual. it doesn't even have the predictability of cancers progression.
Chronic Mental Health is modern medicine's deep ocean floor, the dark side of the moon. We know it's there, we know what it might look like, but as for definitive's ? We just don't posses them all yet.
I know James wouldn't want anyone to give up hope. From the little time I was privileged to spend with him, I know that would be the very last thing he would have wanted.
He was, like most of us who suffer with poor mental health, a mix of deeply dark, and blinding light.
So please don't leave this forlornly. There is hope, even if it's passing someone the most sinuous thread, for them to pull a brighter, thicker rope through. When it's black we are in the highest tower, or the deepest pit, and that glimmer of hope is precious.
There is always a point in trying, hoping, believing, cajoling, failing, and repeating.
There is no plaster cast for mental health, it doesn't behave like a regular illness. It is a moveable feast that requires patience and somewhat low expectations. Aim the bar too high and you're going to be disappointed and exhausted.
Chronic and relapsing it may be, but it is treatable, so always aim for treatment. Both for them and you.
There is always hope.
But if I ask for continuous hope, I also insist an an absence of blame.
Please - no blame for the family. Whether from without, or within. I have worked with, and lost, too many people to realise that I am powerless over the outcome. If It has happened, I'm afraid it was always likely to happen.
Trust me, every carer tries way beyond their capacity.
Everyone did their best, and if we do our best we could do no better.
This absolutely applies to the ones we've lost. Remember we don't blame the cancer victim. I know James would have coped with more in a few months than most people have to compete with in a whole lifetime.
Poor Mental Health transmits via blame. We understand virology all too well now. We have to drop the R factor - contain it so it dies out. The same applies here.
Poor mental health wants to cross infect, spread through the family, even after the initial sufferer's passing. That's why we shouldn't blame. Find the ways to celebrate, to use something so tragic positively. Build. I'm absolutely not saying don't grieve, of course we must, and that process is deeply personal, and open-ended. There are many books on handling grief but CS Lewis 'A Grief Observed' is excellent.
So, hope ? Yes.
Support, don't fix.
Aid, not abet.
Treatment, treatment, treatment.
My Dr told me once "If we can't get you well this summer, i'll get you well this year." It takes time, but that time needs to be spent in treatment. My Dr's words reassured me that even though this was a long journey, there was someone who believed there would be a destination.
I would like to thank Jame's family, especially Beverly, for giving Lee the material to write his article. It is, without a doubt, the best description of this illness, both in its symptoms, and it's devastating consequences, I've read in a long time. It rings too true.
Your candour is beyond brave. It will undoubtedly help others. Thank you.
Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm)
A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Men's Health Forum
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome your phobia or OCD.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider's Access Charge
Support for people with OCD. Includes information on treatment and online resources.
Phone: 0845 390 6232 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider's Access Charge
A charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD. Includes facts, news and treatments.
Phone: 0333 212 7890 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
Young suicide prevention society.
Phone: HOPELINEUK 0800 068 4141 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 10pm, and 2pm to 10pm on weekends and bank holidays)
Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30pm to 10.30pm)
Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: www.sane.org.uk/textcare
Peer support forum: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum
Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.
Phone: Parents' helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
Addiction (drugs, alcohol, gambling)
Phone: 0800 917 7650 (24-hour helpline)
National Gambling Helpline
Phone: 0808 8020 133 (daily, 8am to midnight)
Phone: 0300 999 1212 (daily, 10am to midnight)
Cruse Bereavement Care
Phone: 0808 808 1677 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)