Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mental Health 106 - How do you talk to a friend who has depression?

How do you deal with a friend who has depression?  There are no easy answers, and it can feel like a minefield with no "safe" path at times.  I've known a few people who've had depression – and I'm lying if I say I always deal well with them.  Sometimes you click with someone who has depression, and sometimes it’s just impossible.  The later has happened to me a couple of times, and feels like I've failed that individual, but still ...

When I talked about Pip and her revelation about not only her dad’s terminal illness, but the unpleasant nature of her relationship with him, I talked about feeling over my head.  But the important thing to do is to really not bale out and abandon your friend, but do the best you can.  Your friend needs someone who is patient and understanding.  Even if they’re going to a counsellor, they need support outside of that.

A friend of mine from school lost her baby in the final phases of pregnancy in the last year, and that was dreadful.  But she told me what made a bad situation unbearable was that everyone didn't know what to say to her anymore, so people started avoiding her.  She felt a social leper at what was already the lowest time of her life.

For myself when dealing with someone like that, I tend to try and say something – and learned if you are going to give in to paralysis because you can’t find the “right words”, you’re going to be silent an awful amount of the time.  The important thing is you make an effort and try and say something, but most of all you listen.

As I've said, I've had depression – and people tried to be kind and nice and friendly to me.  But to be honest I was in such a bad place the time, I was just hurtful back to them.  And I feel mean about that now, but also understand it was out of my control a little at the time.  To be honest, sometimes when you’re depressed, as dumb as it sounds, you just want to push everyone away.  Even the people who want to help.

For myself depression was the reason I behaved that way, but it’s not an excuse or get out of jail card.  When I dealt with it, I did my best to rebuild those relationships that had been damaged.  But I was so thankful for those people in my life that I couldn't keep away.  And yes - I did apologise for my behaviour.

When you try to deal with someone with depression – you have to have patience.  You have to understand to an extent that some of what comes out of their mouth is their depression talking, not the person you know to be your friend.  And that’s hard.

Sometimes they’ll snap at you, and you need to back off a bit.  Sometimes they’ll ask you to just leave them alone, and sometimes you have to.  Give them time, give them space, but don’t be too proud to come back, because they’re hurting, and despite what they might say, they need you.

Being friends with someone who has depression is hard – I think to get through it you need to be really good friends.  Because the depression will test it to it’s limits believe me.  I think I'm learning I can’t just “be there” for a comrade who is a fellow sufferer who I only vaguely know in passing – there has to be the cement of genuine friendship prior to depression hitting, because it just won’t last otherwise.

The New Zealand depression website has some great advice for do’s and don’t for supporting a friend with depression, and I'm going to repeat them here,


  • Spend time with them
  • Listen rather than talk – let them tell you how it is for them
  • Learn about depression - how it is treated and what you can do to help recovery
  • See yourself as part of their support team
  • Understand how depression is affecting their daily life
  • Help the person to recognise and find ways of dealing with things that are worrying them
  • Help and encourage them to lead a healthy life, to exercise and to do things they enjoy
  • Support and encourage them to keep getting whatever support or treatment is offered
  • Take any thoughts of suicide seriously – it’s okay to talk about it. Don’t leave someone alone if they feel unsafe. Contact a health care provider or a crisis phone line.


  • Tell them to 'snap out of it' or 'harden up'. People cannot 'will' themselves better from moderate or severe depression
  • Encourage excess alcohol and drug use as a coping strategy - it can make things worse
  • Avoid them – they already feel isolated and this can make their depression worse
  • Assume the problem will just go away
  • Judge or criticise them for what they’re going through
  • Lose hope - they need you to believe they will get through this
  • Give unhelpful advice – for example, 'just think of people who are worse off’.

And of course, support doesn't just end when they seem to be back to normality.  With Richard, who worked for me, I would do regular catch ups with him to find out how things were going with him.  The idea was to check in on his mental health so I could ask him “do you think you need to go the doctor again?” if he was having problems.

He did indeed have a couple of wobbles as you’d expect – but he told me he found it useful to have someone within work to “talk about this stuff” to, and to sound out his emotional state.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Mental Health 105 - "I regret to inform you". The suicide bombshell.

It’s the worst email you can get in the morning, “I regret to inform you that our colleague and friend Nicholas passed away in the night”.

I've received this kind of email twice, and at the time you have no idea what has happened.  But sadly a few months later the rumours go around that Nicholas did no “pass away” peacefully.  I myself was temping in IT support at the time of one of those emails, and had to reclaim the machine of the deceased, going through files in his account and hard disk, deciding any work related ones.  Unfortunately for a number of files that meant opening, quickly visually scanning the contents, and moving anything that could be important to a shared drive.

I found it unnerving to go through his things, and really didn't want to delve into his private life.  But all the same, it became apparent even from my quick visual scanning of documents that he'd written a lot of letters to lawyers, going through divorce and custody hell.  Nicholas (not his real name) had been going through a difficult time, and few of us at work would have guessed.

Even now, it feels unfair, even under the shield anonymity to reveal this about him.  However these details did eventually come out during the inquest into his death many months later.

This isn't my only brush with suicide.  I've written previously about my friend Violet, and the effect her life and her death had on me.  There I wanted to celebrate her life, and to talk about how I dealt with mourning her loss.

There were some details I omitted though – I’d mentioned that Violet had issues with mental health which had seen her committed for a period of time, as well as a previous failed suicide attempts.  Ironically she was the first peer mental health sufferer who I formed an open friendship with, and she was severely influential in my life.  I learned that fellow sufferers can get a great deal of support by sharing their troubles with someone else who “gets it”.  This picture, like no other reflect my friendship with her,

Those conversations over the years of our friendship really turned my life around – because I could talk through things with her that it was difficult to talk to anyone else about, without judgement.

Sadly though in 2010 her life started to spiral – she was on a new medication system which she was finding difficult to find balance on.  Unfortunately people have to occasionally change their meds, and as Violet was on a combination of pills for various difficulties she had, there could be complex side effects that could cause whole weeks wiped out in a “zombie” state as she adjusted.  She’d also spent years waiting for a free slot with a specialist therapist to try and deal with some of the issues and reduce her medication dependence.

In hindsight we’d talked about her stints in mental institutions, and she’d ominously said that she’d never go back there.  Her landlord started motions to (illegally) evict her, something which is a difficult trial for someone with her level of anxiety, for which your flat is your only “safe” area.

One day she went quiet.  People phoned, but there was no reply.  The next day, the Police battered down the door, and found her dead on her bed surrounded by empty packets of medication.  It took months to get information – I was told her blood toxicology results were inconclusive.  She had alcohol and elevated levels of medication.  Coroner eventually erred on the side of accidental over deliberate overdose, but given the circumstances, I've always been in doubt.

Whether Violet was or wasn't a statistic, suicide is unfortunately something that does go on.  In New Zealand, suicide kills more people than road traffic accidents (almost twice the number) – and almost 75% of those who die are male.  That is an alarming number – it’s the single preventable cause of death in men 16-40.  It’s a chilling statistic.

Last year I was lucky enough to attend the Whirlwind Workshop on men’s mental health on Kapiti.  Whirlwind is an initiative to promote men’s mental health, and provide a network to both support and discuss issues frankly.  I'm pleased to say that Qual IT, one of New Zealand's premier IT test consultancies are amongst their sponsors – it’s nice to see an IT company involved in this, as going around the support groups in Wellington, I've seen an alarming number of our industry as end users of these kinds of services, and their tale is often all too the same.  Project managers and programmers who pushed themselves, until something broke, with the some finally seeing a doctor for help, or eventually ending up in care for a limited time.

Yet they are still the lucky ones – for some, their problems, and the dark places they inhabit just feel too overwhelming.  Martin Sloman of Whirlwind sums it up when he says it’s a difficult thing for many men to admit they need help, “men are very bad at coming forward and embracing this kind of challenge … it’s unblokey”, and yet this attitude of shame is leading people to feel it’s easier to end their life than to live with the shame of a badge like “depression”.

Problems in life can feel daunting – but in life as in IT, we know that breaking complexity down, you can work on it a piece at a time.  Problems can be dealt with, support can be got, but death is so huge and permanent and "unfixable".

Nicholas’s suicide ended the custody battle with his wife – but it left a gaping hole in the life of his children.  Something could have been settled and negotiated.  But instead his children are left trying to understand why he did this, and why they’ll never see their father again.

As I said about Violet, before the inquest  I would spend alternate days so upset she was dead, or feeling so incredibly peeved she did this.

If you are feeling depressed or suicidal, I really encourage you to talk to someone – pick up the phone.  A good place to start is the Samaritans – most countries have a branch somewhere.  If that doesn’t help, just type the words “suicide hotline” into Google, and see what your local options are.

Don’t think you’re too weak, and don’t think it’s just you!

A powerful video - and worth watching ...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mental Health 104 - Depression, the powerful dog who sneaks up on us ...

About 10 years ago, I worked with a bright young man we’ll call Richard, who was reported to me.  One day, he didn't show for work, and we were told he was unwell.

It was 3 months before he appeared in work again, and we were all a bit concerned for him.  But Richard asked that we didn't enquire about what happened.  So we left it at that.

But then, 9 months later, he fell unwell again, and vanished again for a similar amount of time.  I just happened to be in the lift with a cleaner who was good friends with both myself and Richard, when she said to me “it’s a shame about Richard depression isn't it?”.

She looked shocked when I mentioned that Richard hadn't told me, but I mentioned how glad I was she’d told me.  I tried to be very gentle about it with Richard, but stumbled into a conversation on mental health, and talked a little about my own experiences.  It’s so important with people fighting this battle you don’t try and give glib solutions, but show real empathy.

Bit by bit over weeks of chatting I got some of the picture – it’s a story I've heard now from too many others.  The first year it’d happened it came out of the blue.  But the second time, there had been signs.  It’d started when he was at his aunt’s funeral and realised how she was one of the last of her generation.  It wasn't a crushing feeling, but he felt really down about it.

He thought he was being silly and would be okay, but those dark thoughts just grew and grew.  He didn't want to go the doctors because he thought it’d pass.  But then one day he realised he just couldn't get out of bed it was just impossible.

That might be difficult for anyone who has never felt that depressed to get, but this is a video which explains a lot about how people with depression can feel,

Looking at my own experiences, and talking openly with peers about them, I've come to a realisation of sorts.  As we get older we learn the rhythm of lows.  It’s a mixed blessing – but talk to someone who has suffered from any mental illness for some time, and they will tell you that the raft they cling to during the lows is that they've got through this before, and so they know deep down they can get through it again.

They also get better at noticing the early signs, and seeking help at that point.  This is important - notice early, take action before your depression has become unmanageable and large, and you're a good way to keeping yourself mentally healthy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mental Health 103 - Counselling and roads to wellness

I cannot begin this piece without first thanking many people who have sent emails, Tweets and left comments of support for my previous piece.  It reaffirmed my belief that "this is something worth talking about", and I was moved how my tale had touched so many people in different ways.  For myself sharing it was an important water-shed, an affirmation that "these things happened to me - but I refuse to let them to continue to have power over me".

Oh, there's still a footprint remaining - but time and treatment have helped to reduce them.  For myself and many others, the road to wellness in this area was counselling, which is sometimes called therapy.  A lot of people have opinions about counselling – ironically, when challenged most people turn out never to have been in a session.  There is a lot of misinformation out there, not helped by clich├ęs we've all see in films, TV and the media.

The phrase that I hear the most is “I'm not going to have someone sit there whilst I tell them all about my life, just so they can judge me”.  As someone who not only been through counselling myself, but has friends who have also used the service, I would like to talk you through my experiences.

Let’s start with what it isn't …

  • Counsellors don’t sit there and judge you
  • Counsellors don’t treat you like a child and tell you how to live your life
  • Counsellors don’t go home and laugh about what you've told them with their friends
  • Going to counselling is not a sign of weakness
  • Going to counselling isn't even necessarily a sign you have a mental illness

Let’s try and clear some of that out of the way now – the media stereotype we're used to is one of some awful wet-behind-the-ears hippy who just tell us repeatedly “so how did that make you feel?”.  I have never met a counsellor like that.

Counselling is about exploring an aspect of your life that is uncomfortable and causes you distress.  Let's be blunt about this, to get benefit from the session, you need to feel you should be there because there is something in your life that's such a pain point that you want to address it.  The counsellor doesn't know anything about you but what you tell them – so in truth, you are firmly in the driving seat.

Most counsellors work by essentially guiding your through processes as you explore past events, your thought processes, how it affected you afterwards, and yes indeed – how it made you feel.

For myself – I can quite simply and clinically recite to others the bare bones versions of those events “I was sexually abused”, “I saw someone killed”, “we tried for a second child, but it didn't work out”.  But the fact is, it’s the whole “how did these things make me feel” that’s the clincher.  For each of those topics it’s complex and labyrinthine, and I got so used to avoiding thinking about them, I honestly never explored how they did make me feel.  Regarding the sexual abuse for instance we explored in counselling how it affected going through puberty and adolescence, my sexual discovery, my confidence, and my feeling in situations where I felt similarly dis-empowered.

An important part of the counselling relationship is it’s confidentiality.  Counselling is a professional career which takes it’s obligation to your welfare seriously.  In fact in my opinion, counselling cannot work unless you have a level of trust with the person you’re going to spend this time with.

There are limits though to even this confidentiality though that it's important to understand – counsellors will remind you at the start of your session that they are obliged to break this confidentiality only if they feel you are likely to harm yourself or others.  But even this makes some obvious sense, this is about your wellbeing after all.

For myself and the areas which have caused stress in my life, they are not subjects it’s easy to talk with others about.  Certainly not people I have a relationship with.  They are about discussing a certain level of insecurity and are certainly “heavy” subjects, which need to be dealt with sensitively, and perhaps not casually.

I have to be blunt – when I was at University in Liverpool, a friend in my drama group wanted to meet me early at a pub one night, before the rest of our group.  She then dropped a bombshell that her father had just been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour with months to live.  But she didn't know if she felt comfortable about that, or indeed even wanted to see him.  You see, he’d abused her for years, and she was terrified he was just manipulating her again like he’d done before.  I have to admit, I just felt completely out of my depth in this conversation.  Being the best friend I could do, literally all I could do was “try my best”.  But this wasn't an easy conversation at all, and it really worried me if I had given the best advice, or listened enough.  At the same time I admit I did really feel honoured that Pip felt comfortable enough to talk with me about this.  I just really didn't want to let her down.

This is why I think it’s a bit bullshit when people say “you don’t need counsellors, you just need friends who’ll listen”.  Counsellors are used to listening to such stories, and dealing with such conflicts on a daily basis – of course they’re going to be not only more comfortable, but be able to produce a better outcome for the person in need.

Typically a round of “primary care counselling” which deals/tackles a single aspect of life takes about 4-6 sessions.  I had to use counselling for typically 6 sessions for each of those life issues I've discussed.

As mentioned, trust in your counsellor is key.  I typically use my first session with a new counsellor to explain who I am, and a high level overview of what my problem is.  I use this session to really probe the counsellors behaviour.  At the end of it, I either say “see you next week”, or “I'm sorry, I'm really not feeling comfortable with you – is there any other counsellor I can use?”.  Twice before I've had really nice counsellors, but I've just not felt I could be open and truthful with them, and it that case, it’s better for both of you if you say so upfront.  Counselling will only work if you feel safe enough to be open.

Why not keep taking the pills?

A lot of people fear medication – there is sadly no “cure pill” out there, but medications of different types can really dull some of the effects of depression, moods swings or anxiety which can help people to function relatively normally.

For some people, the drugs work marvels, and they can stay on them the rest of their lives and live a full life.  For myself after our attempt of a second child and how moody the steroids treatment had made me, the medication allowed me to get my brain back on an even keel until I was ready to do without them again.  The counselling then helped me to just deal with all the frustrated emotions, and to not only come to terms with it, but remember I already had a child and rediscover my joy in life (that might sound dumb – but in all the frustration for a second child I swear we sometimes forgot).

But for many people like myself, some counselling can help to explore the emotional issues and really reduce their power, with a view to allowing us to cope without them.

I will leave the final words with a friend of mine, Martin Sloman who works as a counsellor in Kapiti Coast.  I asked him about his thoughts about when people talk about counsellors “sitting there in judgement of people”,

“Firstly all good Counsellors never judge. Secondly a good counsellor has empathy, usually at least in part because of their own awareness of life's difficulties. I see counselling more like personal development. You don't go to school or college because you are thick. You hope to come out better equipped to deal with your future.”

If you want to explore more about counselling, I really recommend having a look the the FAQs of both Martin's website, and that of the Massey University counselling service, which I think really help to answer some fundamental fears around counselling.

As mentioned in a previous posting, most companies do provide access to a counselling service, and in the UK, you can usually get a session for primary care counselling, although there can be a bit of a wait.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mental Health 102 - My experiences

There have been for me, three real difficult and traumatic events I've had to deal with that have caused periods of depression in what (for the first two) I'm told was post-traumatic stress.

Childhood Abuse …

As a pre-adolescent 10 year old, I was subject to a series of events, which I found incredibly distressing.  At the time, I couldn't come forward and talk about them, because I was so ashamed of what had been done to me, and felt guilty by association.  Later off I thought of them as possibly a form of ritual humiliation to “put me into my place” and I was just being an overly sensitive cry baby.

But I never really “got over it”.  I hated what had happened to me, how powerless and frightened I felt, even when I was no longer that dis-empowered 10 year old boy, I still felt like that inside.  I felt silly, but at 30 I ended up getting worse and worse flashbacks to event, that I ended up going to see a counsellor about it.  That’s where they gave it a name – “sexual abuse” – something I was uncomfortable with.  Something that I felt until then couldn't describe what happened to me, because things like that only happened to women.

I like many were touched by Justine’s account of a recent event of sexual abuse that had happened to her at a technical conference.  I felt such a strong flood of empathy there, and respect for the courage she took just in voicing what had happened.  I’d spent 20 years finding the courage to talk about what had happened, and even here, I can’t bring myself to discuss it in detail.  This of course is unusual for me, but indicates just how completely out of my comfort zone I am discussing it.

Many people say “she should have done X or Y”, but I got it.  The whole paralysis that happened to me, the fear of people knowing what they did to you, the shame associated with it because you feel you've let it happen to you – a shame which of course is totally unfair and unfounded.  And yet as unfair as it is you feel it.  You don’t need other people telling you “oh why didn't you handle it differently”, because in my case I’d spend 20 years asking myself just that.

What happened to me almost feels out of the pages of the Abu Ghraib prison.  Only I was a junior Scout, and it was inflicted by older Scouts, and perpetrated by Girl Guides for added humiliation.  It was done to bully me and keep me in line, with the follow up threat of what would happened if I told anyone.

I still feel physically sick when I see Girl Guides/Scouts.  A man my age with a phobia about Girl Guides should be hilarious shouldn't it?

To be honest, being able to see some humour I'm told (through therapy) is an important factor in my mental health.  My sense of humour, although off the scale weird (and gets me into trouble), is part of how I cope with a lot of things.  Humour allows us to escape and laugh at times when really all we want to do is wail.  To be frank - the sexual abuse isn't comic though, but the phobia it’s set up, I can see the funny side to that.

The problem with sexual abuse is it’s a crime unlike any other.  When I had my car stolen in 2010, within hours everyone knew about it.  It took me 20 years to talk about this – and then only in private.  It’s a crime where the victim feels tarnished and responsible – and a lot of therapy around it goes to the heart of that.  And it doesn't just happen to women – as this very powerful piece showed me …

Witnessing someone getting killed

This was probably a much harder event for me to deal with – which ironically meant I got help that much quicker.  Although again, not soon enough.

This is the problem with many traumatic events – they smoulder away in your mind and cause long term harm to us emotionally.

The day after I finished exams for my first degree, I travelled over to my brothers to (so the plan went) have a massive bro’s weekend of drink and dumb stuff.  He met me at the train station, and in the evening, walked back to his place.

As we went by a pub there was a large fight going on.  A gang had punched a man to the floor.  We were stunned, and too far away to do anything but witness.  On orders from one of the gang, someone in a car revved the engine, driving the car over the prone man, snapping his head back in one of those horrific moments that plays in your mind repeatedly for the rest of your mind.

It felt for a moment that everything went silent – then all hell broke loose.  People were yelling, screaming, crying.  We just ran – we felt terrified, vulnerable, confused – and we just wanted to run to somewhere that felt safe.

I just remember trying to put the kettle on when we got in, but couldn't because I was shaking so much.  We tried to tell one of my brothers flat mates what had happened.  But though the guy was really very calm and sensitive, we just started to cry.  It was so senseless.

In the end – we just found ourselves calling up our parents because we just didn't know what to do.  They were 40 miles away, but came to fetch us.  We were just a gibbering mess.  We were no use to the Police – we’d only seen a fraction of what was going on, we could describe the victim but no-one else.

For myself it was a difficult thing to “get over”.  For years I wondered if I could have stopped it.  I hated the feeling of being complicit by just being a spectator.  I hated that my instinct was to run.  I hated that I just cried and cried.

It took me years, and indeed counselling to accept those things.  I had frequent flashbacks, which actually got stronger as the years got on.  Initially I wanted to just move away from cities and those kinds of problems.  Ironically I looked to moving to Germany to just get away, and that would lead me to meet Beate Zschaepe, who is currently undergoing trial for her involvement in a string of racially motivated murders.  The fact that I was so scarred by seeing someone killed, but later was attracted to someone who was involved in murder, is almost a trauma point in itself

In a really tragic footnote whilst writing this article, I heard that Ian Fisher, my brother's flatmate who had been such an eye of calm on that terrible night, had been killed in a suicide bombing this month whilst he served in the British Army in Afghanistan.

Trying for a baby

My wife and I have a son – he was a happy accident.  One day, we were carried away, and forgot our birth control.  It was no big issue though – we both wanted children, the timing wasn't superb, but we were happy to go with it.

Two years later we decided to put away the birth control again, because we were ready to have another child.  After all, if we’d conceived from forgetting contraception just once, how hard was it going to be?

A year later - twelve months of failure - we were wondering what was going wrong.  Every month was the same cycle of trying, hoping, and then disappointment.  Friends kept telling us to just keep trying and something would happen.

In the end we went to the doctor about it, and both had to be referred to specialists with long waiting lists.  This meant scans for my wife, and me making emergency dashes of sperm samples to far off pathology labs (between set hours they were open for business, as the samples died off quickly outside of the body).

It turned out of be a little bit of both of us.  I was suffering from immobile sperm, and my wife from irregular ovulation.  She was put on fertility drugs to increase the number of eggs she’d ovulate each month, and I was put on a strong course of steroids which I was told would reduce my immune system, as my antibodies were attacking my own sperm, killing them.

The steroids did do their magic making my sperm function much better from pathology tests.  But there were side effects – the drugs (and possibly situation, it’s impossible to tell one from another) made me incredibly irritable and emotional, as well as causing large weight gain.  It was equally emotional in its own way for my wife.  Then add to this that the act of intercourse went from being one of emotional engagement between us, to one of obligation.  Yes, trying for a baby was killing our sex life.

After just under a year, we had to come off our drugs regimes.  It had been soul destroying.  The only option open from here was costly IVF, which we had to be blunt and admit we didn't have the money for.

I would like to say that I’d found work supportive, but over that one year I'd had 10 changes in team lead.  Originally I laid my cards on the table about what was going on, but it became increasingly humiliating.

For the first time in my life, I consulted with my doctor and admitted I was in a huge emotional low.  I went onto some anti-depressives, which helped me cope a lot, but alas had a side effect of even more weight gain.

People ask me what being on anti-depressives is like.  Some people wonder if it “robs you of your soul”.  Before taking them, I was in a very irate and wound up state, partly from my situation, the steroids effect and the lack of support from work (except for some close friends).

Most types of anti-depressives take a while to work – typically up to a month to build up in your system.  And I was lucky in only needed on a relatively low dose.  I remember a conversation with my doctor asking how I felt and my reply was “well things still go wrong in life, and they can hurt, but I don’t feel like I fall to pieces anymore when it happens, like I can cope and weather them”.

Again, long term counselling helped reduce my dependence on the anti-depressives, which I was on for about 18 months before slowly cutting them out.

In each of these trials, counselling helped me to move on … I will be talking about that in my next piece.

Mental Health 101 – The ultimate taboo

Back when I was closing in on my 100th post, I put on Twitter a list of potential future topics for blog posts.  The one I was surprised to see the appetite for was on the subject of mental health.

You see, I was pitching that topic thinking “maybe it’s just me”.

Mental health is a difficult subject to do, and do well.  It is in many ways the ultimate taboo.  By admitting that in the past I have ever had any problem in this area, I potentially run the risk of a future employer coming over this piece and viewing hiring me “as a risk”.  But I really hope we’re coming out of the dark ages here when we talk about attitudes to mental health.

Over this series of articles, I will be frank about my own experiences, and will also discuss those of friends that I've worked with, or know outside of work through various channels.  For these people, I’ll be using their experiences but under assumed names.  The only person I break this for is for my friend Violet, who died, and who was such a crusader for mental health, I know this'd have her blessing.

Make no mistake, these posts that follow are going to be a dark and explicit because of the nature of what’s being explored.  It will probably unsettle some people – but I'm putting this together for those people who need to know “it’s not just me”.  I have had too many people within the IT industry who thought it was.