A MAN who was overwhelmed with anxiety and depression has stressed the importance of talking about mental health, in support of a new campaign launched.

The Worcester News and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust have united for the Now We're Talking campaign, to raise awareness of Worcestershire’s Healthy Minds service.

The service aims to help people aged 16 and over who are experiencing common mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, low mood or depression – issues which affect around 50,000 people in Worcestershire alone.

John Spurling, from Worcester, was originally prescribed antidepressants and sleeping pills to combat his mental health.

The 42-year-old has spoken out on the difficulties he was faced with while taking medication and how the Healthy Minds service changed his life.

In November 2017, John moved back to Worcester after a period of being away from the city and landed himself a role as senior manager for a company.

“A week after moving back to Worcester, everything went wrong,” he said. “I started having panic attacks. Overnight my confidence went. Even driving, it never bothered me before, but suddenly I was terrified of driving. I feared the dark, I hadn’t been scared of the dark since I was a child.

“There was a lot of stress from my job. My boss was off work from stress which meant I suddenly had these added responsibilities.”

John noticed how progressively tired he was getting, to the point he would have to go home during his lunch break to take a nap.

He said: “I thought to myself then, should I go to the GP? But being a bloke, I thought no, I must work through it.

“Even my friends were wondering how on earth I was managing to fit everything in at a high level of work. You don’t really think about it though, you just keep on running and multitasking.”

Two weeks after starting his new job, John realised he needed to seek help. He visited his GP and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. John was prescribed the antidepressant, Sertraline, and sleeping tablets.

He added: “I suddenly turned very negative, when usually I would be an optimistic person. I would get angry, when I wouldn’t usually be like that.

“I was having panic attacks just about seeing people. I became very withdrawn, when usually I would be very confident meeting people.

“The sleeping tablets sent me completely nuts. It was horrible. My behaviour became erratic. I was moving furniture around in the night. I was attempting to sleep on my daughters’ floor by moving a mattress in there in the middle of the night just to ground myself.

“I could hear voices. I had visions in my head. I could see faces. It was bizarre. The tablets had a really odd effect on me.”

John swapped his sleeping tablets to another pill, Lorazepam, to help with his anxiety. After four months, he eased off the tablets by gradually reducing the dosage, but, he has stated the difficulty coming off the medication.

“I suddenly understood how easily it is to become addicted. Sometimes I thought that I needed to break into a pharmacy to get hold off more pills. There are articles out there which says, ‘how to come off Lorazepam without dying.’ It was horrific,” he said. “I did not know who to talk to. I felt like I was always letting people down.”

John later searched for alternative help to medication and he was signposted to the Healthy Minds service which was referred by the GP.

He began Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Service, which is a talking therapy for individuals to manage problems by the way they think and behave.

He also received 10 one to one sessions with counsellor, Sarah Bellamy, who works for Worcestershire Healthy Minds.

He said: “The counselling helped me so much. It allowed me to reach out. When I first started the counselling I was very anxious, but gradually it encouraged me to speak out.

“The one on one contact with Sarah helped me the most. She was excellent and supplied me with many interesting techniques to work through my problems and acknowledge the signs.

“Somehow, I changed as a person. Before I would appear negative, and then suddenly if a problem arose I would know how to deal with it.

“In time, I was motivated to start exercising and it really helped ground myself.”

For more information, visit nowweretalking.nhs.uk or call the team on 01905 766124.

You can follow the campaign on Twitter @NowWereTalking and on Facebook @NowWereTalkingWorcs