Nobody other than a few very close people in my life will know that I suffer greatly with my mental health.
I’ve been successful in my working life, I’ve travelled, I have a lovely home, a wife and two children. I had a wonderful childhood and my parents are still alive and together. I’m not a drug addict or an alcoholic. To people on the outside, I’m a very positive guy. But in actual fact, I have terrible demons.
I never used to speak about mental health. I’m very talkative and upfront until it comes to me – then I’m very much a closed book. I now realise I’ve struggled with my mental health since I was 30, but managed to contain it.
Last summer, I really slipped. I started to struggle at work. I wasn’t getting on with my wife, and my kids were driving me mad.
My coping mechanism was sleep. I was spending lots of time alone. I felt like a freak because of how I was feeling. I went from being down to contemplating suicide – and even planning how to do it – to the point that it became an obsession.
Despite this, I didn’t take any time off work. On the outside I still seemed fine, but on the inside I was dying.
One day I broke down to my wife. I also took my technical director, operations director and owner of the business to one side and opened up to them.
I saw a doctor and when I was in the surgery I noticed a poster for the NHS programme Therapy For You and called them. They saw me as high risk, so they also connected me with the Samaritans.
One of my brothers got in touch as our mum had told him I was feeling down. He confessed he suffered with depression in his late 20s and at one point was also on the verge of committing suicide. It made me realise depression is rife.
My wife runs a wellness business and one of her customers connected me with a man who worked in mental health, and I was accepted onto his programme.
I call him my angel because he saved my life. He taught me to change my mindset and to base my decisions and emotions on fact alone. I learnt more in his sessions than I had in years.
Since then, I’ve never got on with my wife so well, we changed the focus of the business at Vertical Systems and my kids are doing great.
You’re never cured of depression, you live with it for ever, and I’ve accepted I’ll always be on anti-depressants.
A couple of months ago, someone opened up in the workplace that they were struggling with their mental health. They were shocked when I told them my story and said they felt better after speaking out.
Since lockdown, the number of people struggling with depression will inevitably go up, and in the travel industry people will be feeling down that they can’t do what they love.
Travel bodies need to set up helplines and travel businesses need to have mental health policies.
For people who are struggling, know you are not alone. Speaking out is so important. Your manager or supervisor can’t prescribe you medication, but they can listen. If people want to reach out, I’m happy to talk.
Mental health is such a hugely taboo subject – people don’t talk about it. But doing so can be life-saving.
Chris North is managing director of Vertical Systems