Ainsley: How Talking and Being Open Has Helped Me

What difference does it make to talk? Ainsley talks about the contagious positive power of talking, building up a support network and finding what works for you. Trigger Warning: references to suicide

Out of focus Black man holding glasses

I’m a mixed race man with 2 children, who was brought up and lived in Sheffield the whole of my life.

There are a couple of reasons why I’m writing this, one is that I’m involved in a campaign to get more Black men talking about their mental health  – which should help prevent Black male suicide.  A few years ago a significant member of the Black community in Sheffield, took his own life. By talking more I believe we can all contribute to make sure this doesn’t happen again and people know there are always other options and people who are there for them.

Secondly, as described below I have had a difficult and life changing past 18 months. Writing this has been cathartic, helped me see what positive steps I have taken and the progress I have made. More importantly I hope it provides just one more person with the courage to reach out and realise that we all have different situations going on and we are in control of how we respond to these situations.

My life changed forever in the space of going to work and coming home. With no indication of what was to come when I left for work that day.

Looking back, the first and most important thing I did – was to reach out and ask for support from family and friends. Don’t get me wrong, this was not easy, but I have found the more people I let in, the stronger my support network is and the more opportunities I have to talk through things– it’s amazing how being open with people leads you to different levels of relationships and conversations you would never have expected to have. Who can you reach out to? Who do you trust?

Further to my support network, I joined a peer to peer support group – Andy’s Man Club – this has given me the space to express how I feel, talk through and process the impact that the current situation is having on me and those around me.

It allows me on a weekly basis to relieve any stresses or worries I have, and then goes further in allowing me the capacity to keep on going and dealing with my current situation –no matter how difficult it gets. Something is always going to pop up, the question how are you going to deal with that situation?

One of the most significant realisations is that it has allowed me to see that other people are going through similarly difficult times. We are all on different parts of that journey, but able to give support and advice to each other. Positivity is contagiouswe all choose who and what we surround ourselves with.

Over this period of time, I’ve built up other strategies for when things get hard and tuned into what I know works for me – be it exercise and having that set focus and goal, journaling  – just getting your thoughts and feeling down on paper is really empowering and has allowed me to spot what does and doesn’t work. What works for you? What do you enjoy? What makes you happy?

For any situation that can feel difficult, there is also new opportunity for different experiences and change. I’ve taken the positives from a difficult situation and used this to take advantage of opportunities and new experiences – trying things I previously wouldn’t have tried, enjoying things I didn’t expect to enjoy, once again tuning into what works for me.

If there is one takeaway from reading this, I hope it’s the importance of communication – with family, friends, total strangers in my case and Andy’s Man Club! But I’ve never found a situation where someone will not want to listen, you just need the courage to reach out and be honest. We are stronger together than we are alone. Without question I’m going through the most challenging part of my life – and rather than just surviving, I’m thriving.

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