“You don’t have to battle against the world single-handedly.”

After experiencing mental health issues his whole life, Mark Robbins set up LIFELINES mental health community support hub as a private and safe place to encourage men to come forward, to talk about personal struggles, and to rid the stigma attached to mental health.

Over the years Mark has encountered many methods of interventions from the crisis team and regular therapeutic treatments including some medications. He is currently receiving support from a mental health team with regular reviews to support his needs.

Here, he explains to The Tees Online how he helps others with mental health needs.

I understand first hand how important it is to address mental health struggles. I spent my childhood feeling alone in the world, not feeling loved. I didn’t finish school because I was a difficult child. I always felt different to others, feeling awkward in social situations especially in school. I spent a period of my early teens in care across several children’s homes.

In adult life, I suffered an emotional breakdown which triggered strong and long periods of depression, with several historical attempts of suicide. Over the years as a child and man, I learned to mask my depression. But eventually I reached out and accessed support, being referred to a mental health team. I’m currently receiving regular assessments and therapy, as well as being assessed for autism.

It’s from this standpoint that I set up LIFELINES. Any advice given on the hub is simply to offer reassurance, as a gesture to alleviate how others may be feeling and to prevent possible self inflictions.

It’s important to remember we can experience triggers from a variety of life situations. As much as we seek support and guidance, we can only suggest certain strategies and methods alongside signposting to promote wellness. A listening ear can be so beneficial.

In my opinion there are three strong key elements in supporting others who may be showing signs of suffering with mental health issues.

1) Recognising the signs can be the first step to trying to subtly engage with an individual. Simply ask them, “How are you?” You may get a vague response, you may get back an automatic, “I’m okay.” However you’ve asked them the question because you’ve noticed something in their presentation which alerts your suspicion.

2) Once you’ve got a response that confirms your suspicion then a gentle, compassionate, friendly approach with a positive listening ear can be the catalyst to using methods of intervention such as changing their course of direction and distracting the individual away from what they are thinking and feeling.

3) However emotions can be running high and moods can be despondent for some so it’s important not to miss and dismiss or avoid what could be a potential crisis. If anything leads you to ask the question, “Are you suicidal?” and the answer is YES, then we need to act straight away by either using some form of signposting or contacting a professional/s to support the needs of a potential crisis.

A caregiver like myself can sometimes reassure individuals that someone is listening. Be consistent with your support and check in with them regular.

If you are in this situation yourself, I know how important it is at times of low moods, low self esteem, low morale and feeling despondent to break away from shutting down.

Allow yourself to talk with someone, anyone you’re able to confide in, even a stranger, it doesn’t matter. What matters is you offload.

You shouldn’t feel guilty from sharing, or feel that you’re a burden from being listened to. Simply making that first step is acknowledging it’s time to accept help.

Freedom from your troubled mindset can impact on your hopes and aspirations. Try to breathe without fear, without extreme anxiety and panic. Reach out, guys, it can alleviate ruminating thoughts, turmoil inside your only road to self loathing, and battling against the world single-handedly.

However long the path of recovery takes, stay on that road. Obstacles are avoidable, but thoughts can be blocked and distraction will help. Find a strategy to support the quest of finding peace. Please don’t lock it all away, guys. Trust me, I found reassurance from breaking the cycle.

The Tees area and surrounding towns are suffering in silence. Men are at a higher risk of suicide. As communities we need to be aware that 1 in 4 men are taking their own lives. Let’s pull together, support our men and encourage them to speak out.

Mark Robbins is a 48 year old family man who for the past thirteen years has worked in Mental Health supporting others.
He set up a Mental Health support hub to encourage men to speak out about personal struggles, trying to break the stigma attached, and emphasise that there’s no shame in reaching out. He also gives awareness talks in the community to highlight the importance of raising awareness of mental health issues.