This October is Mental Health Month, with this year’s theme being Share the Journey.
Andy Davies is one man eager to share his story of resilience and recovery.
Working as a mechanic in an industry known for its blokey culture, Andy Davies always thought of himself as the alpha male provider who could down a few schooners and laugh off stressful times without the need to speak about stress or emotions.
So after going through a tough break up, losing a best mate to cancer and working long hours with long travel time, Andy threw himself into the only coping mechanisms he knew – avoiding his home environment with working longer hours. When Andy was at home, he often chose more isolated nights in with alcohol, takeaway and laying on the lounge with the TV.
Getting lost in the resulting fog of anxiety and depression, Andy had started to ‘genuinely not see himself’ and also retreated from friends and family.
Andy’s neighbours noticed this change in behaviour and used their observations to invite Andy over to share their concerns about his wellbeing. Andy was initially held back by the stigma of speaking up about his mental health, responded defensively and left.
Luckily Andy’s neighbours wouldn’t let him leave without Lifeline’s number, and after going home and having a good think about the evening’s conversation, he came to the conclusion that he did need to seek help. After calling Lifeline, Andy started making positive changes in his life and being honest with his vulnerabilities to combat his mental health.
He then arranged an appointment with his GP to speak about getting the help he needed. The GP referred him to a counsellor who gave him practical tools to take control of his mental health as well as pointing out that he was not alone, with one in five Australians experiencing a mental health condition in their lifetime.
As Andy began to rebuild his confidence in the months that followed in his recovery journey, he also started to take more time establishing a healthy routine for himself. This included healthier lifestyle choices such as: cutting down alcohol, eating healthily, exercising regularly, getting out into nature, listening to men’s mental health podcasts, reading and regularly using breathing and muscle relaxation techniques to keep himself in check.
Looking back on it all, Andy now knows that no matter what else, his life has improved due of his experiences and has come to terms with not always having to be strong or independent. He can now recognise the signs when he has been getting off track and uses his experience with his psychologist to take the time to practice self-care. Andy is now in a more supportive work environment and has become a champion for men’s health, mentoring friends and colleagues without feeling the stigma of speaking up about mental health.
Andy’s advice to other men is always to ask for help and don’t be too proud to let people know you are struggling.
- Andy’s story is a part of the Tackling the Challenge Project, a collection of local men’s stories, highlighting men’s strengths, resilience and recovery. If you have a story to share and would like to be a part of the project, please contact Brendan Bennett on Brendan.Bennett@health.nsw.gov.au or on 9616 4048. Further support can be provided by a GP or health professional. You can also contact Lifeline: 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au