I was a semi professional footballer, on Sky Sports doing football tricks at the age of 13.
I was the sports captain, well respected by my peers and the one charged with keeping whole team together, confident and focused, even during the tough matches.
I was a fitness freak who had to run faster, longer and lift heavier weights than everyone else.
On the outside I had everything together. I was the larger than life, fitness expert, burly offshore oil worker, and it was absolutely exhausting.
What people didn’t see was that it all felt like an act. My reasons for needing to be the best did not come from a healthy place and it wasn’t sustainable.
It was a year after my son was born. I was working offshore on a 3 and 3 rotation and felt like I was struggling to fit into my role as dad and fiancé at home. I was struggling to get my voice heard at work, my internal anxiety was at an all time high and I broke.
It was as much as a shock to me as it was to everyone else and I had to face the truth that I wasn’t OK. I went to my GP, was given the opportunity to open up, talk about my struggles and was helped to understand what was happening. I was experiencing deep-rooted depression and anxiety that I’d pushed below the surface for years. The moment I recognized that and understood it, man, a weight was lifted, and I felt free…and happy for the first time in a long time.
One month ago, I launched a private Facebook group called ManUP SpeakUP. It is a community for people in the industry to get support and advice with their struggles. The aim of this group is to help battle the stigma surrounding mental health in the offshore and oil and gas industry and to support others through sharing our experiences.
Within the space of just one short month we have gained over 400 members, all opening up in a safe space with like-minded men and women from across the industry. I personally receive 40-50 messages a day from people reaching out for support and I make it my personal mission to respond to each of these people with a message or a phone call. I can start the day speaking to the mum of a worker struggling in Malta and end the day speaking to the CEO of a major company in Houston, and I love it. The response has been overwhelming, all this time we’ve been stigmatizing people about opening up, when all along so many people were internally crying out for it.
I guess my message would be that if you feel like you are struggling to cope with the every day stresses of your life, seeking the help and support of others doesn’t make you weak. You can relax in the comfort of knowing you are not alone and in simply freeing yourself of the burden by sharing your issues could make the difference for you. It might just give you the mental strength and resilience to not feel so overwhelmed tomorrow morning, and the day after.
I want to help as many people as I can simply by listening and if I can’t offer the support they need, I have a team of mental health professionals ready who can. My vision for the future, is for this group to become a registered charity, for our numbers to continue to grow and to be able to educate a further team of mental health professionals who can go on and continue to help more and more people going forward. This is just the beginning.