Sufferers of mental health issues speak out to ‘break taboo’ and back bid for more support in Sidmouth

Dale Coleman

Dale Coleman - Credit: Archant

Sufferers of mental health issues have spoken about their struggles in a bid to ‘break the taboo’ and help others battling an often ‘invisible’ problem.

Adam Ives

Adam Ives - Credit: Archant

Two Sidmouth men have described the courage it takes to seek help and painted a stark picture of how difficult it can be to get the right treatment – only for people to ‘get lost in the system’.

They both backed a bid that could see a dedicated support service put in place for young people in the town to help address ‘the most pressing issue in modern society’.

Adam Ives, 23, of Lock Close, said he started to have mental health issues at the age of 18 and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression following a seizure in a nightclub. This led on to a condition called non-epileptic attack disorder.

The senior healthcare assistant said he ‘fell back into deep depression’ after failing to pass the audit training of his dream job as a 999 call handler. This resulted in him not eating properly, having no energy and, eventually, led to suicidal thoughts.

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Adam described a process of multiple referrals between centres in different towns and said he is still waiting to hear when he will receive the stage three cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) he has been prescribed.

The former Sidmouth College student said: “If more funding was available, then I - and many other people I have spoken to - would be able to access stage three CBT and other services. Mental health issues are still a large taboo and many people unfortunately do end their lives - even after speaking to doctors and other healthcare professionals, because there isn’t enough help and resources out there available. I was told to contact the Samaritans if I needed more support or someone to talk to.

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“I’m lucky to have a close family and great friends who are so understanding and always there. Some people may not have that and feel even more alone and the thought of that is horrible. They reach out for help - which takes a lot of courage - and are then lost within the system.

“Towns like Sidmouth need more funding for mental health issues because, if you are depressed and anxious and rely on public transport, some people may find it hard or impossible to get to the appointment venue.”

Dale Coleman, 26, hopes that in opening up, he may be able to help others speak about their problems. He said throughout his own struggles with anxiety and depression, he has come to realise that mental health issues affect many people, of all different ages.

Also a former Sidmouth College student, Dale said he was a quiet lad who failed to achieve good grades because of his dyslexia. He found it difficult to make friends and as a consequence was bullied in school.

Dale says the ‘violent and malicious’ behaviour he faced was a ‘huge’ contributing factor to his mental health issues. He believes that, if schools dealt better with bullying, fewer victims would carry the trauma into adulthood.

Dale – who grew up and lived in High Meadow, Woolbook, until a recent move to Exmouth – said: “Until you have experienced the dire desperation and self-hatred associated with mental illness, then you will not know how it feels to be in someone’s shoes.

“Some days I can be stuck inside for days on end in fear of going outside, despite knowing this fear is totally irrational.

“I think it’s important to come out and ask for help because it’s the only way people will know you are struggling - you can’t see mental health like you can see a broken leg or arm.

“I think Sidmouth could do with more support that opens its doors to the young community, rather than the sufferers having to seek help because - speaking from experience - when you are feeling low, you don’t want help from the big scary world.”

Dale worked hard to overcome his dyslexia and had a job for six years, before having to leave due to his depression and anxiety. He said, while much has improved for him and he has people who support him, he still faces a daily struggle.

He wants to give the message to anyone suffering with mental health issues that they are not alone and it is not something that is feared and hidden by society as it once was.

Dale added that modern technology has a part to play in ‘desensitising people to real life’.

With the rise in bullying via social media recognised as a major nationwide concern, Sidmouth College says it is taking a pro-active approach to combat the problem that is often linked to mental health issues.

Principal James Ingham-Hill said: “In a time of scarce resources, we devote funds to ensure that students with mental health issues have access to appropriate external support, including a professional counsellor and educational psychologist when appropriate.”

Responding to Dale’s comments on bullying, Mr Ingham-Hill said that it is difficult to speak about an historic case, as none of the leadership team was in position at the time, but he added that, following a restructure, the college now has excellent provision and processes in place to prevent and deal with bullying.

Adam and Dale spoke out following a Herald report that detailed a £2,700 bid by Sidmouth Town Council to facilitate setting up a group of young people and trained personnel to identify the help needed. The driving forces behind this project said the initiative was born in recognition of an urgent need to address a growing problem.

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