From education to employment

Talking my way to a cure #ThisIsMe

Mark Anderson, Managing Director, ACG Compliance

I am not afraid to tackle my demons, and to be brutally honest I tackle them head on and found a new lease of life which helps me control “my” depression and anxiety.

Others aren’t as fortunate to find a cure, I just need to look as far as my phone book and I could identify 2 friends who took their lives due to depression.

I remember New Years Day 2016 better than any, I tried to take my own life!

I ploughed myself with Glenmorangie whisky (I don’t even like whisky) and contemplated life. At the time, I didn’t really know I was suffering from depression because I was always quite happy. I always had a smile on my face but there was always something niggling at me.

I was employed by a brilliant company, but I always wanted to own my own business. I wanted to be the man at the top, building a legacy for my family. So, in the background from my full-time job and busy family life I set up my current business which now provides my living, but things could have been so different!

My wife was pregnant with my third child, Ashton, her hormones were all over and we had a silly argument. She left for a few hours.

It was within those few hours things started going around in my head and I picked up the bottle, had a couple of swigs and walked around to the 24-hour garage and bought several packets of paracetamol.

I returned home, sat myself on the living room floor and put Sky Sports News on the TV. I continued to drink the whisky and one by one, swig by swig, I sank the paracetamol.

Over and over in my head I was convincing myself this was the right thing to do, I was convinced that my 2 sons and daughter would have a better life without their daddy!

Thinking back, I can’t believe I ever thought that. I was that convinced, I finished the tablets and then proceeded to drink the remainder of a bottle of Calpol.

Upon reflection, it was more a subconscious cry for help, I don’t think deep down that I really wanted to take my life.

I wrote a note in my phone explaining my reasons, I was convinced I had done enough.

My wife returned home, and I can’t really remember much more after that. One thing I do remember is being in the hospital and the nurse who clearly didn’t have a clue on how to deal with this type of situation decided to tell me and my wife that, because of what I had done, we might lose our children!

I was hysterical, and this only made matters worse. It wasn’t until a doctor came to see me he calmed the situation and explained to me that it was likely I had a mental issue.

I accepted his diagnosis and cried for help. I literally sobbed and hugged my wife as hard as I possibly could in efforts to sink myself in to her. She is a complete rock by the way!

The hospital swiftly kicked me out. Beds were needed and, to be honest, I didn’t want to be there. They kindly issued me with anti-depressants (I write this with my tongue firmly in my cheek).

I couldn’t sit around though, the following day I was back at home. Things were quite awkward between myself and my wife, she resented me and, putting it bluntly, she wanted to kick my bloody head in! Regardless, she remained by my side throughout.

I started the tablets and WHOAH! What an impact, the amount of ‘out of body experiences’ were mental (mind the pun). I returned to work and I didn’t tell my employer what had went on, I made up some excuse as to why I couldn’t go to work and carried on as normal.

Returning to work was bizarre – I continued laughing and being the joker at work the best I could and no one had any clue what I was going through.

2 days in and I threw the tablets in the bin. I rang my GP and demanded that I was referred to a councillor. Fast forward another week and I was sat talking to someone about my problems. I opened up about everything and I began to realise I had been a complete nightmare to be around.

I thought I was happy as Larry, but once we started talking about it became clear that I had been suffering from depression for years, I just didn’t realise it. We completed a 6-week programme, I say ‘we’ because my wife was suffering with me, and I called an end to it. I realised the cure and it was talking!

Following my previous troubles, I have went on to achieve some small goals. I have set up ACG Compliance which has now become an established training and consultancy provider. I have founded the ‘National Anti-Bullying Workplace Award’ which is going from strength to strength. I have rubbed shoulders with some remarkable people and I have began to look to help others.

In the training industry I am lucky because regularly I am stood in a room with over 10 people, so I take that opportunity (when the time is right) to tell people about my story and how I can help others talk about their problems. The response so far has been terrific.

Just recently, a delegate stopped behind after a training session and remarkably opened up about their own problems. I now keep in contact with them and, amazingly, they are now on the right track. Result!

Men struggle to talk about their demons and you just need to look at the suicide rates to understand the size of the problem.

Out of 6,188 suicides in 2015, 4,622 if them were male! I really do believe that male suicide rates are higher because we don’t talk to people.

As a man, I know we need to do more to make it easier for men to speak up, but if I can give anyone any advice then I believe it is to talk about your problems because, honestly, it helps. I know women suffer as well and this bit of advice also applies to them! Talk!

So anyway, more to my point.

The business world has surprised me that’s for sure. The training industry is immensely competitive and every month I feel myself wobble but I have methods such as Transcendental Meditation, a strong wife who knows me inside and out and a canny cool business partner who keeps me level headed and positive (even though he can’t operate a printer… Don’t get me started on this).

Most people know my story – but not to this magnitude. I haven’t told anyone about my battle like I have done in this article.

Everyone in my business, or who has been involved in my business, is told if they have any issues, any mental struggles to speak with me because I am an open book and want to help!

I want more people and businesses to take the same approach. Look around you now and look at your staff and colleagues. What can you do better? That old cliché of ‘leave your personal problems at home’ doesn’t sit with me I’m afraid!

Nobody can simply forget about their personal problems, so as an employer or manager we need to take the right steps and talk to our staff, help them with their struggles and point them in the right direction… before it’s too late.

There is help available. If you are struggling with deadlines, production pressures or unmanageable workloads in addition to your hectic personal life then speak up!

Don’t sit in silence because, no matter what you think, there is someone who cares.

You are not alone, and help is just at the end of the phone or across the desk from you. Depression, anxiety, stress or even personality disorders are all illnesses. Each and everyone one of them have a cure like most physical illnesses, you just need to have the strength and courage to jump on the train to freedom and grasp your opportunity to get rid of your demons.

Listen, I am not looking for a sob story or a pat on the back, and to be honest I went on a tangent with this and away from what I was really asked to do. But regardless, if I can influence one person to talk about their problems before they take any drastic or unnecessary action then I will be happy.

I love the fact that mental health first aid is booming and that businesses are beginning to understand that, as a society, we need to work together to do more.

You aren’t alone…help is just around the corner.

Talk, because talking saved my life and I want it to save yours!

Mark Anderson, Managing Director, ACG Compliance

About Mark: Dedicated to making a difference and preventing workplace bullying, harassment and stress, Mark founded the National Anti-Bullying Workplace Award. NABWA is the first and only award scheme for the management and control of workplace bullying, harassment and stress which organisations can achieve. With the official launch of NABWA only months away, Mark is utilising any time he can to promote workplace bullying. His passion for the cause shines through, coupled with telling his story of his personal struggles with mental health and running ACG Compliance a health and safety training and consultancy organisation, Mark is also a huge Newcastle United fan for his sins.

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