In the fifth edition of our ‘Just Checking In’ series, we spoke to David Welham, a mental health ambassador. We discussed his current mental health state, his experiences and how he went from mental health survivor to an ambassador for change.
How are you feeling about your mental health currently?
I am feeling good at the moment. I’m using my toolbox of things to help me manage my mental health better.
When was the first time you became aware of your own mental health and realised that it wasn’t just physical pain you experienced?
The first time I realised things weren’t right was back in 2013. I started to feel like I couldn’t get out of bed. I stopped doing all the stuff that was routine such as paying bills on time or going out with friends.
There was so much going on in my mind at the time that I couldn’t cope. I probably had depression a long time before this without realising it.
What mental health conditions do you have (if any) and how long have you lived with them for?
I think I have lived with depression and anxiety for a long time. I just believed it was normal to feel that way.
There have been plenty of moments when I’ve felt low but just got on with things. I should have got help but I didn’t.
When my dad died in 1994 I should have taken time to grieve and reflect but because I was the ‘man of the house’ I carried on and got on with my life.
If you had to describe how your mental health conditions affect you in your day-to-day life, what would you say?
Anxiety affects me because I over-think things and over-analyse. I worry this stops me doing the things I would like to because I doubt myself.
Tell me about your journey to Mental Health ambassador. How did it start and what does it involve you doing now on a day-to-day basis?
My journey started after I went back to work after receiving counselling, signed off by my doctor. I wanted to make sure that other men were able to talk about how they felt about mental health. I knew that there was stigma and I wanted to change this.
One day I gave a speech at work about how I had struggled and things just went from there. I now encourage others to do wellbeing walks, everyday talk about mental health and have lunches and coffee breaks to discuss how they are feeling.
As I have already had a full-time job I do my Mental Health Ambassador work alongside my role and outside of work.
What made you want to become an ambassador for mental health and who have you helped so far?
What made me become an ambassador was the feeling that mental health wasn’t talked about enough. It was seen as taboo and wasn’t given as higher priority status as physical health.
I have helped many people at work and outside work. I have also encouraged colleagues to train as a mental health first aider.
What factors do you think have affected your mental health? So, it could be school, pressure at work, family influences etc.
I think that many reasons affect my mental health; work, family, neighbour issues and just not being resilient enough. When I was struggling I didn’t ask for help.
Have you told anyone close to you about your mental health issues like your friends or family and have you asked for support for them?
Since my last bout of severe depression in 2013 I have been honest with my family and made sure that they are aware. My work is fully aware and support me and others with their mental health issues.
What tools and methods do you find useful in helping you manage your mental health or mental health issues?
I cycle and walk a great deal when life gets on top of me. I have favourite places that I go when my mental health is not in a good place. Music helps me and even reading helps me manage my mental health.
If you could say, what do you think were your lowest and highest points in your mental health journey so far?
As I mentioned previously, my lowest point was in 2013 when I felt so low day after day, week after week, month after month. The highest point was being awarded and attending Royal Garden at Buckingham Palace on behalf of all those who are silenced.
Do you think the conversation around mental health is changing and if so, in what way?
I think that we have made progress but there is still a way to go before mental health is seen as important as physical health.
I no longer feel it’s a taboo subject but companies still need to do more. I read a survey that said 84% of line managers feel they have a duty towards employees but only a quarter have done training in mental health.
People who are struggling with mental health still have to lie when having time off and say that it is for physical health.
What more do you think needs to be done to ensure everyone who has mental health issues can get the support they need?
We need action. We need the government to make more money available for support services and reduce waiting times for people with mental health problems. To read that some people are sent 300 miles for treatment from their home is not acceptable. That needs to change.
How do we think we break the stigma amongst boys that it’s okay for us to talk about our mental health and it doesn’t make us less of a man?
We have to keep talking and make it as commonplace as talking about football or whatever. We also need to ensure that mental health is made a more important subject in schools so when boys become men they are much better equipped.
You can read more ‘Just Checking In’ conversations here.