On Monday 1st May, alongside Nottingham Forest Football Club, we started our new mental health campaign, It’s Tricky Talk, to encourage fans to talk more openly about mental health problems and seek support after hearing the heart-breaking stories of Forest fans, Jonathan McCartney and William Garvey who sadly took their own lives.

Since the launch of the programme we have been amazed by the support of so many different people including Nottingham Forest Fan, Mike, who wanted to share his story to try and help others who might resonate with aspects of his life.

Mike is 37 years old and moved to Nottingham when he was just 6 and has since been an avid Nottingham Forest fan, where he would regularly attend the games down at The City Ground. He absolutely loves the club and told us he had some wonderful memories with and of Forest, his most memorable match being the 5-2 mauling of Derby in Dec 2010.

Mike went through some troubling times in his childhood, recently coming to terms with the abuse he suffered as a child which occurred around the same time his mum and dad got divorced. After the divorce Mike became increasingly close to his mother who was unfortunately diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away in Mike’s early 20’s. Mike said that this is when his Mental Health started to decline. After doing really well at work and receiving a promotion, things took a turn and rather than talking about some of the problems he was having mike turned to alcohol and drugs to try and mask over his issues.

Although Mike was prescribed anti-depressants and his work provided CBT support which he said was helpful, he explained that he never really dealt with or spoke about his mother’s passing which was a big part of the plunge in his mental health. Mike says he cannot stress enough the importance of acknowledging your problems or state of mind and then talking about it. Whether that’s to family or friends, a helpline, GP, absolutely anyone. Not dealing with it and trying to mask over it just builds it up and honestly just makes it so much worse. He said, ‘the Samaritans text service was such a good help for me as, like many other people, I struggle to physically talk to someone about my problems.’

Mike, later on in his life, moved to Australia, got married and had two children which he said was amazing, but after four years out there and his son getting very poorly, his wife at the time couldn’t cope and wanted to move back to England. Upon moving back, they unfortunately separated and although there was still hope of them getting back together, when she told him she had met someone else Mike spiralled out of control again. He ended up going from job to job because of the spells battling with his mental health and he has actually attempted suicide 6 times, including the Christmas Eve following the separation where he spent Christmas day in hospital. Mike says this was the real low point when he knew he needed help.

Mike opened up more to close friends and used the Let Talk Wellbeing service after advice from his GP. Sadly as his mental health was improving, Mike was involved in a near fatal car accident on his way to an interview which left him in intensive care for 76 days and injuries including a fractured spine, broken wrist and severely damaged leg, Mike was also left homeless as a result of the accident and didn’t see his children for many months. Despite this Mike managed to stay positive, he thinks this is due to the experiences he had faced up till then, and with the continued help of friends, family and support services such as Framework, CGL and his GP has again managed to get back on his feet and now sees his children again regularly and is able to make use of the disabled facilities at the city ground. Mike still sees the Rushcliffe mental health team, but this is now about managing his mental health well moving forward and recognising the signs early, as opposed to crisis management. The club sent a signed shirt and photos after his friends reached out during his time in hospital.

He explained that he thought he was dealing with his problems, puffing his chest out, getting on with it and going out on the beers but in actual fact he was ‘falling to pieces inside’ and over time things got worse and worse and it effected, not just him, but everyone around him, including his family. Mike understands how debilitating a negative mental health can be telling us that it can completely take over your life sometimes and be completely irrational. He knows that not everyone has gone through things that he has gone through and some people could have been through worse. Mental health can truly affect anybody, but he says the support and relief you get once you open up is just amazing. All the fears and worries you have instantly diminish, ‘just having someone to talk to and be honest with is honestly the biggest help.’

Mike ending by saying…

‘I know Forest have always done well at helping and being involved in their community, but this is a next level for me, it’s so incredible to see and its going to help so many people. It makes me even more proud to be a Forest fan.’

To find out more about ‘It’s Tricky To Talk’ click here.