World Mental Health Day 2017

Today is World Mental Health Day.

So please mind yourself.

In the end, you are responsible for your own wellbeing.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need help every now and again.

I certainly do.

If you’ve never struggled with a mental health problem then, take it from me, you’re lucky.

I decided to be very public about my depression seven years ago and I did so in order to help others.

Of course, because of my work here I knew that I was handing a stick to the klan to beat me with.

Heroically anonymous and bravely concealed they gleefully seized it.

Then again they think a million Irish people starving to death in the 19th century is hilarious.

One day we’ll find a cure…

Although I think that depression will be easier to erase from the human condition before Unsurpassed Dignity is just a nasty memory.

I know only too well the bone-crushing sadness and utter exhaustion that depression can drop on you from nowhere.

Now I have an early warning system in place.

The people around me and I have a deal.

If they think I’m slipping downwards they point it out and if I detect the start of a depression I reach out to them.

The statistics for male suicide on this island over the last thirty years have provided a grisly body of evidence that men are bad at reaching out.

I’m in a better place now than I have been in my entire adult life, but I know that depression lies in wait like a mugger.

Perhaps the brain that can produce sold out stage plays has to harbour depression as a sort of creative collateral damage.

Whatever the reason it is part of me.

I spent long enough denying it was there.

That was why going public in 2010 for Amnesty was a huge decision.

If I created the conditions whereby ONE person feels ok about reaching out then it was worth all of the effluent of abuse that poured in here and across social media.

So today, of all days, please have a heightened awareness about these issues

If you’re worried about someone in your life then trust your instincts.

Now, if you’re concerned about YOU then please please reach out.

Speak about what is troubling you to anyone that you trust.

It doesn’t have to be a mental health professional.

Rusty just loving greeted the chap from An Post.

Right on cue, I just received this in the mail.


I got it with a view to passing it onto a dear dear friend who has just started on a regime of anti-depressants.

When I have read it I will send it to her with my thoughts on the efficacy of the advice contained within Ms Wehrenberg’s work.

It is my intention to be part of my friend’s recovery as best I can be, because she has certainly been there for me in the past.

This is a job for all of us.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.

32 thoughts on “World Mental Health Day 2017”

  1. the depth of my ego by glasgows very own matt mcginn is well worth a wee listen to for anyone plagued by the black dog.and that includes me.

  2. One of my favourite songs is the recording of Raglan Road by Van Morrison and The Chieftains recorded back in the 1990s in Govan. Therein, in this tale of the mania of love, is the well-known lines… On Grafton Street in November, We tripped lightly along the ledge, Of a deep ravine where can be seen the worst of passions pledged…
    The song is, in a very real sense, haunting, in so far as it dances along that line between the real and surreal which strong feelings engender. The line between mental wellbeing and ill-health, I tend to think, is just such a boundary, a precipice we all stride along not realising how close to catastrophe we all are, particularly at times of high feeling, overwork, trauma…
    That men in particular are unable to open up has made depression a modern tragedy on an epic scale. I think to honour Phil’s bravery in deciding to speak out in public, we should all have a quiet word with ourselves, and seek out an opportunity soon to share the good things in our lives with those we love and respect.
    Thanks Phil.

  3. I wish to add my thanks to you , Phil for going public on this issue. That you have been goaded because of it, says more about the mental health of the perpetrators than it does about your own health.
    One of my sons is a sufferer and he has taught me a lot. He was able to open up to his parents in an eight hour phonecall. I talked to him while his mother flew 1200 miles to be with him. There were dark days but he is a strong character and he now has happier times. He has since married and last year had a fine son. There is light at the end of the tunnel. We all know that this will be a management process rather than a cure but his family all became closer because of it. There can be great learnings from this experience…both for the sufferer and his support network. We are all more complete people as a consequence.

    All the best to those of you out there,


  4. Theres so much to say but…. My depression came after drug experiments in the 70’s. I can say it’s an illness you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. It lasted for many years but eventually when I realised it was coming from inside me, and that I also had a responsibility for it I began to understand what was going on inside my head. On the surface I seemed calm but the inside of my head was a mess; like a huge library of cupboards and drawers all filled with worries that had been forgotten about and filed away to be dealt with later. I was wired to the moon. I was living in a bad acid trip ; a paranoid state. Eventually I began to make lists about what was really worrying me and could I do anything about it or not . If I could do something I did it if not I forgot about it. Going to bed early on a glass of milk helped too. Sleep is essential. I would say it’s the most important element in recovery. That’s why exhaustion is a symptom. Eventually I realised that I had regained some control and often it’s the losing of ‘control’ identity etc that’s terrifying. That’s why it often strikes very mentally ‘strong’ people – ironically. You are in a battle with yourself. After depression normal life is like being in Paradise haha.

  5. Fellow sufferer,and poor at dealing with it so ended up alone,skint and almost housebound.I’ve had all treatments but unfortunately my brain doesn’t have much faith in them,or me.
    Revealing you’re a sufferer was brave and can only help,even if only for a few folk,so you deserve praise for that.Anything that makes it easier for people to talk about is worth doing and worth applauding.
    I’ve almost given up hope of beating my depression and have accepted it’ll be there for as long as i’m above ground.I just go day to day and see what happens.My head has no fight left,I realise i’ll never have a period of sustained happiness.It’s just how it is.It’s how i’ve decided to cope.
    Your article and others like it will hopefully help others realise they’re not alone and maybe lead to some climbing out of the dark pit depression smothers sufferers in.Even 1% getting better would be success.
    Thanks for article and good luck in your fight.

  6. If you don’t show this Phil ,I fully understand. Its taken me a day to do ,I have never spoken of it ,not even to my lovely wife, who saved me.
    I was brought up in the centre of Glasgow in the late fifties and sixties ,my Da was the archetypal Glasgow hard man and a very hard task master.
    It was a hard school , the tenements were rife with poverty , the only saving grace being , nobody told us kids we were poor ,it was a level playing field ,and in that respect we got on with it, and largely had a ball.
    The attitudes towards almost everything then , bear no resemblance to todays society. Illness in general was a sign of weakness ,never to be shown. Mental illness was for “poofs and toffs” fuck all to do with “us”.
    My own adult thoughts on mental health stemmed from this background and were in accordance accordingly. In conjunction with this ,the house was full of love ,I never heard a wrong word spoken towards anybody ,Ma would not tolerate it. Everything was right or wrong ,if we ever erred we had no excuse we knew we had. The family was tight and very close . Surrounded by books and topics of all sorts, we were a happy crew.
    Im the oldest and there was nine years separating me from my next brother, my old man “liked a drink” and a fair bit of responsibility fell to me. As a result I grew up protective of my Mother and my brothers ,it was my lot in life ,and I was happy to do it.
    My Da was misdiagnosed ,and after 18 months of illness died a horrible death with three brain tumours ,he was sixty three. This impacted the family greatly , especially Ma .
    My mother was also ill at this time from a heart attack ,(probably induced as a result of Da’s illness) unfortunately the symptoms from this smothered the fact she too had cancer. By the time they discovered this ,it was too late and she was deemed to be terminally ill.
    I was with her when she was told ,they said she had three months …five if she was unlucky. Well to give you an idea of her character eight and a half years later she died. She never went near a doctor for five of those years.
    To hear your Mother is terminally ill is one of the worst shocks that will happen to you in your life. In your mind it is thereafter imminent.
    It was my honour to look after her ,and to keep the worst of it from my wee brothers. If I had known it was going to be eight years , I don’t think I could have coped.
    After she passed ,I was very ill myself ,although I did not realise the extent of it fully at the time. I carried on ,but I knew I wasn’t right ,this was not down to just grief , I had experienced enough of that to know the difference, something else was going on.
    I couldn’t sleep ,my short term memory was completely shot ,and tasks like simple mental arithmetic were beyond me. I was also in a lot of physical pain , I have a high tolerance for pain ,but this was beyond that and became very debilitating.
    Still ,I cracked on and tried to ignore it all ,hoping it would settle down.
    I had stopped training ,gave up my season book ,which I had had for over thirty years, couldn’t read a book, I used to make architectural models ,I liked the precision of it and the end result ,it relaxed me, that was totally out of the question.
    None of this registered with me as odd in itself. Two things happened that brought it all to a head. I had a run in with a guy. At this time although no longer practicing I had studied martial arts for over thirty years ,I had taught it at the highest levels for over twenty. To lose your discipline to the extent you get involved with Joe public is virtually unheard of. I came within a split second of really damaging this guy ,not injuring ,but damaging. This incident stemmed from virtually nothing, this put a red flag up , i was very shaken by this, it had been very close ,and totally out of character. The second thing was I drove from Glasgow to Helensburgh one night at two in the morning, the rain was torrential and visibility was seriously reduced, I did it in eighteen minutes, I went the loch Lomond side route and at one point the cars top speed was maxed out, even allowing for the fact I was driving a seven series BMW . I thought on what I might have done to someone else. Time to get help.
    I was lucky enough to land a GP that knew what he was looking at, he diagnosed me with anxiety and deep depression further down the line the physical symptoms were diagnosed as Somatoform disorder, which is your body adopting physical symptoms including pain etc from mental illness. These physical symptoms are very real and it took a bit of doing to pursued me that they stemmed from mental issues.
    On reflection ,although a practicing Roman Catholic ,the drive to Helensburgh was a virtual suicide run , I pushed everything to the nth and was deadly cold nerve wise. I have given you this background to let you know one very important thing, it doesn’t matter how duty bound you feel ,how responsible for this or that. Your first duty is to yourself ,its YOUR mind ,nobody else can look after it for you, there is no shame or stigma in admitting you have a problem ,there is no shame in getting help ,it does not diminish you. Being exposed to mental illness especially in solitude ,will most certainly diminish you ,GET HELP ,get it from every where you can. Every time you can. The black dog is a Pitbull if it gets its teeth in ,your going to need that help. I let things run for so long ,I damaged myself , I am well enough to function now ,I don’t think I will ever be that guy again, the one that filled my perception of myself.
    If I have offended anybody in the telling of this please believe, me I don’t have a bigoted bone in my body. I would like to thank Phil for having the balls to put himself on offer by going public with his illness. Also Neil Lennon for doing the same . Two men amongst men. Be lucky and be healthy and that includes your mind. In fact it should be first and foremost. I thank you. John

    1. The greatest love and respect to all of you.

      An incredible litany of strength and survival.

      I’m humbled to have read every word of this thread and can only thank all of you for your candidness, eloquence and collective inspiring persistence to remain shining in the light of life, and here you shine like brilliant stars.

      Of all the great public acts you’ve ever done, Phil, there’s no doubt in my mind that being open about this thing has been, by far, the best of all and will long remain your greatest human legacy, quite aside from the never ending tales of mirth and laughter that you provide for us on here and to which I can testify have helped me enormously through some very desperate times.

      For such compassion, strength and bravery only the noblest can behold.

      And the rest of them just ain’t worth it.

      Much love to you all.

  7. Wonderful words Phil and I sincerely hope those suffering take some solace and wisdom from them. This is unbelievably still a subject that is pretty much taboo in daily life but I sense that slowly but surely we are gaining a better understanding of the issues at hand. In the macho culture we live in (living in Glasgow as you have done Phil think about how many slang words there is for someone suffering from a mental illness) it is probably the bravest thing a person can do to admit to needing help. I genuinely think in this day and age of technological advances (social media, interaction, etc.) and global uncertainty that unfortunately a lot more people will be diagnosed with psychological conditions in the future.

    The only advice I can realistically offer is to please speak to someone, anyone, if you are beginning to feel any of the symptoms associated with mental illness. If you understandably do not wish to open up to a family member or a friend there are helplines and websites to consider. You are not alone. God Bless.

    1. I’m glad more and more people are talking more freely about depression and it certainly seems less stigmatic and taboo than a few years ago. Males especially seemed to switch to insular enigmatic mode. I am one of those people and I still feel down at times. Now I have coping mechanisms mostly my kids and girlfriend. At my lowest I was lying on my sofa in a dingy bedsit in Cumbernauld hungover and bored. I thought to myself life couldn’t get any worse. It didn’t with some effort and cognitive behaviour therapy I was back to being a not so miserable twat in no time. It’s a horrible thing to contend with. It’s always going to be there . Don’t be alone talk to someone. Even in this kinda format helps as a release. God bless

  8. For the avoidance of doubt, you do make a difference, Phil.
    Following your blog became an essential part of my routine during the time my partner was attending to the terminal stages of her Father’s illness. It was a brief escape from family responsibilities and being on the bylines for seriously, seriously difficult decisions.
    The online craic was often mighty.
    The amount of things which happened between then and now would stretch the belief of any fiction. It wouldn’t even help to list them.
    Anyway, after the second car accident (which was ALSO 100% the fault of another driver), I began to exhibit a few odd symptoms. Hard to tell amidst the ongoing injuries and medication. Odd jumps and starts, anxiety, mood swings, outbursts.. go on go on go on go on…
    So last year I was diagnosed with PTSD. S’true.
    By this time I was being treated for depression and had reached out to a local counselling service, so the safety net was already in place.

    An old, highly functioning alcoholic, depressive friend told me it was typical of me to have the ‘Royal Flush’ of symptoms.
    It’s how we cope.

    Knowing there are other people with similar experiences, who have been through the mill, really does make a difference.
    There are good days and bad days. Times when I feel robbed of years of my life and times when I’ve stood laughing at the top of a mountain in Co Tipp amazed that I can still do that shit.
    There’s my wee dog, and Phil’s blog and the michty Glasgow Celtic.

  9. Don’t often agree with most of your posts, in fact being categorised as being in a ‘klan’ is quite disturbing. However, even if annoyed by your posts I also appreciate the humour in most of them. That said cudos for raising this issue and it’s sad to hear you are victim of it and that it is used to bash you with. As a long time sufferer it is good to share and raise awareness so hopefully people with or without depression can gain a bit of comfort from this. I will now go back to being annoyed by your other posts!

  10. Excellent post Phil. When you “came out” , I thought that as a public figure , and a bit of a nemesis for them, the cloven hoofed monobrowed ones would revel in your discomfort. You see their brain cell doesn’t do empathy far less understanding.
    As a fellow sufferer, coupled with bi-polar disorder, “ I admire your openness and your indefatigability!”
    In my 30+years experience the advice is spot on. Jonny McB chapeau.
    As Mr Spock would say,” Live long and prosper.”
    Thanks Phil!

  11. I too have massive respect for you in opening up about it. I share that darkness and have been fighting hard to cope. Alcohol was my crutch too but it’s a friend that takes more than it gives and I’ve been free of it for the last few months. This last few days hasn’t been kind to me but this post and the comments made give me hope that I too can learn to keep the darkness at bay. More power to your keyboard Phil.

  12. Ode to my Counselor
    My tears are of relief are not of sadness,my sobs of disbelief are ones of madness, if you’ve forgotten how to feel or dream how can you receive love I am numb and tired let me go I can’t lungs overflow with dread shadows from my past crowd my head,voices from deceased loved ones filter into my head so I retreat to isolation wanting to be dead,my family can’t see my drown so I close myself away just to let them get through their day…wait I have a plan I’ll act happy to all I know this way the anger and pain will never show! And so the timer is set I became a UXB just waiting to explode you see a circuit breaker has tripped in my head,you are my last resort don’t turn me away I want to be happy and I want it today…reset me please.

    1. Respect to all who admit to the problem. I myself am another UXB and have lately decided to relinquish the dependence on the medications after 8 years as I could see no real positive help from them, only negative side effects.
      I will truthfully tell anyone who genuinely asks after my wellbeing how I am at that time and at times I wonder why I bother because there are still those out there whose advise is to “get a grip” or “man up” (not the thing to say to someone who is then torn between ripping their heads off or retiring to a dark room with a sharp implement).

  13. At the age of 49 I received a diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. Irrational and irresponsible actions year on year took such a toll, it is incredible. Once, I took an overdose of 100 sleeping tablets and woke up three days later in ICT, felt like I’d had a great sleep; doctors had told my family that if I ever did wake up I’d be in a vegetative state.

    Even now, I don’t even credit depression as ‘real’ but there is a degree of acceptance that I never had before. When people realise it is real, it drains one emotionally as well as physically, then we can all move on with it and make things truly better.

    Anyway, if you ‘re struggling you’re not alone, it’s not easy to deal with but life can be much lighter!

    Rambling now. Good luck to all.

  14. Great read Phil. Makes me want to share a little of my issue.
    I’ve had my own struggle with depression this year since my dad died 9 months ago. A very tough time through his cancer especially because he had chosen not to tell my mother about the illness never mind the extent of his conditon.. it was terminal. Only him and ibhad know about this for the previous 3 years. I eventually had to tell her on Christmas eve when she kept asking why he wasn’t getting out of hospital for Christmas. I’ll never forget the look on her face when I told her that her husband of 55 years wouldn’t be with us much longer. He died on 21st January.

    That wasn’t the absolute cause but the fallout from that was definitely the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    I became a different person and ended up having a terrible dark time. Mornings consisted of wishing I hadn’t woken up and lurching from one task to another and doing none of them well. I was barely functioning, I was withdrawn, I was grumpy. I felt like i was in a never ending downward spiral.

    It came to a head in June and had to hold my hands up to my wife and work and say i was a busted flush…
    Since then it’s been a lot better…ive had help from so many people and that has been so encouraging. I’m building myself back up and wouldn’t have believed 4 months ago that I would feel this way ever again. I know the warning signs now and have coping mechanisms to hopefully never end up in that dark place again.

    I hope that anyone reading your article or who takes an interest in World Mental Health day takes the time to seek the help they need. Don’t be afraid to ask for help…you are not alone. You’re not weak. You’re human.
    It may be hard to ask but the alternative is worse…think about it.

    And If you see a friend or relative or colleague who’s not quite themselves, take a bit of time and talk to them about how they’re feeling. It could make all the difference.

  15. Having suffered from depression, brought on by severe head trauma following a near-fatal car accident, I too can vouch for the need to reach out. I actually found myself at the stage where I sat on a bridge with my legs on the side of a short drop into the Thames, and having to be talked out of it by one of Thames Valley’s finest. I was put on suicide watch at Slough police station for my own safety, but was released without charge, and advised to speak with a healthcare professional.

    I went through months of taking antidepressants, and found myself turning to the bottle for additional comfort. Of course, in hindsight, the booze was a fools paradise, and although talking out my issues did help a little, I found that they could only offer up “bog-standard” advice. Thankfully these days, depression is rather less taboo, although expressions such as “man up!”, etc are not in the least bit helpful. I think people should view depression with a “there but for the grace of God go I” attitude, and try to place themselves in the shoes of the depressed person, to try to understand and empathise.

    I’d like to think that I’m “cured”, but know full well that it can strike us all without warning. It is at that moment we need people to stand strong with us, because it is only a matter of time and circumstances where we are called upon to return the favour.

  16. Its good u point out that mental depression/anxiety is the responsibility of the person who suffers.
    Pain is compulsory, suffering an option…
    Eat well , dont use mind altering substances like alcohol.
    Exercise, walking an hour as good as running an hour.
    Pray , meditate. If u dont believe fake it to u make it .
    Depression/anxiety is a lack of faith so maintaining faith essential.
    Livr in the solution u find the problem dissipates .

    1. Dont use substances
      Find a power that works
      Clean up the past
      Make amends
      Improve your conscious contact with a power greater than yourself
      Help others

  17. Bone cruising sadness and utter exhaustion……

    I was hit, seemingly from nowhere, by these symptoms about 12 years ago. (Very accurate description of my symptoms)

    Thankfully, I had a great GP who recognised what was wrong and I got help.

    I also like to think, and others have commented, that it has made me more sympathetic to the world around me.

    Like you Phil, I urge anyone affected to get help.

    There is also a great book by Doctor Claire seemed which I recommend – hope and help for your nerves.

  18. Here we are again Phil. Another year of keeping the Black Dog at bay! To all I say, “keep on keeping on and keeping the main thing the main thing!”

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