Matt Andrews, a trainee solicitor at Brodies LLP, shares his experience of mental health and encourages us to end the stigma around men's mental health and start talking.
Mental health wasn't something I thought about growing up. My mum always said I was a "natural worrier" and a more "sensitive soul" than my peers, but we never spoke about mental health at the dinner table and it wasn't on the school curriculum. This meant I bottled up worries and anxieties about myself over a long time.
I thought I was coping until I was in my final two years at law school. I had bouts of loneliness and began to develop negative thought patterns, which affected my confidence and self-esteem. I also struggled with my identity and spent a long time dealing with feelings of shame.
It took me until I was 21 to realise that I was unwell and even longer to accept that I was going to have to do something about it. Up to that point, I had been getting by, but everything came to a head when my ex-partner ended our long-distance relationship in the middle of my final LLB exams. I stopped eating properly, couldn't get out of bed and lost all motivation. I was in a dark place, in a kind of rut that I wouldn't wish on anyone.
After a few months, I decided I needed help and decided to change my whole outlook on my mental health.
I gave up my pride, secured some counselling and opened up to my doctor, who diagnosed me with depression and high-performing generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). I read all the self-help books I could get my hands on and learnt lots very quickly. Over time I worked through the tangle of thoughts in my head, went on long walks and tried to eat well and stay hydrated. I decided to start taking antidepressants, moved into a new flat and started a new job, which gave me a fresh start and helped me to rebuild my confidence.
Now, five years on, I feel able to manage my condition using a mix of medication, rest and therapy.
My outlook is generally positive and I have managed to find a place of mental stability that allows me to function and live life normally. It's not been plain sailing, but I have learnt that recovery is not linear. There will always be bumps in the road, but what matters is how quickly you get back up and keep going after a setback.
The essence of what I have taken from all of this is that being ashamed of feeling depressed or anxious gets you nowhere.
Being too proud to accept that you are unwell is a road to nothing. The stigma that surrounds mental health is debilitating, especially for men, who are three times more likely to die by suicide by women. Many of us don't know that we can, and are likely to, recover from mental illness.
I have a support network I can rely on – but I wasn't able to find it until I admitted to myself that I didn't have to go it alone. We will only start to normalise mental health, medication and therapy when we speak to each other and ask for help. That's why I'm calling on all men to start a brave and open conversation: it's time to talk.
On Wednesday, 16 February, the Law Society of Scotland is running a roundtable discussion for men in the Scottish legal profession. This is an opportunity to discuss the challenges that men face, the stigma around mental health and, most importantly, make progress by having a conversation.
If you are interested in taking part in the roundtable, find out more information here.