Notes on Frank Bruno – Mental Health & Boxing

Notes on Frank Bruno – Mental Health & Boxing

This morning I was up early and was, not surprisingly, tired. However what I saw on the telly this morning proved worth waking up for. I walked into the front room with my dad, and there was news coverage on This Morning with Frank Bruno remembering the late Muhammed Ali. (If you haven’t seen the video of Ali dodging twenty one punches in ten seconds, watch it). I’m a fan of boxing so my ears perked up. I boxed at an amateur level some years ago now, and have no bitterness about it. If it’s one thing its damn good exercise.

Do you know who that is, my dad asked me, referring to Frank Bruno. I said no. My dad explained that Bruno had been something of a mental health champion and that at one point he was the heavyweight champion. I was interested, and the guy seemed like someone I could bump into on the high street, there was no bravado or machismo to be had here.

I got back to university and started researching. As it turns out, watching footage of Bruno’s fights, the man was, and is, good as a fighter. Fucking brilliant. I was equally impressed when I read about how open he’d been about having bipolar disorder, for which he was sectioned in 2003. Following this, a newspaper ran the headline, “Bonkers Bruno locked up!” which is about as repugnant a headline as you can get.

As someone who has been sectioned, I know how much stigma surrounds mental health in general. People are often shunned for their communities and friends leave you as though you’re a leper. It’s a sad situation that can only be repaired through a lot of talking and effort.

Mental illness imbues itself in every profession, and boxing is no exception. Doing some more research, I found that mental health issues were relatively common in boxing. Everyone from Bruno himself, to Ricky Hatton, Sugar Ray Leonard and even Mike Tyson have been irrevocably touched by ill mental health, in a myriad of ways for each of them respectively.

I admired Bruno’s efforts at being an advocate for mental health especially though because boxing is a sport that is saturated to the nines with machismo, bravado and hyper masculinity. Traditional gender roles state that a man should not be vulnerable or weak/emotional in any way. Obviously, this view is absurd but it is nonetheless a stubborn one. So, for someone to flout this trend, in a sport where it is evident in droves, is an unbelievably courageous thing to do. He’s now a government ambassador for mental health and wants to sit down with the PM to talk about overhauling mental health services.

Go for it Frank!

Responding to Trolls

I was published in the Guardian yesterday! If you haven’t seen it you can check out the piece here http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/01/suicidal-detained-safety-mental-health-therapy and overall the response to it has been great.

However, it is also readily apparent from a small but loud group of comments that a lot of work is still left to be done in regards to destigmatising mental illness. To a certain extent though, because the internet is the internet, you expect people to say asinine things like why didn’t you pull your socks up? Why don’t you hug a tree instead? If you pray your depression will go away! Repeat ad infinitum.

The most worrying comments though are of a more subtle nature. The most common point I see being made is that I received stellar care, and what more have been done in the circumstances? The answer, as though it needs to be stated, is more could have been done. It was months before I saw anyone period, for my mental health, by which time I’d descended too far. And when I did see someone, they sent me away with fucking leaflets on depression when I made it known that I was suicidal.

Even when (eventually) a more regular regime of treatment was implemented, it was the crisis team. To make myself clear, I’m sure many great nurses/doctors are working today. However it seems as though for every good one you see you get three horrible experiences in exchange. The crisis team are especially open to problems of miscommunication, which was present for me in surplus. Asking a depressed person to explain themselves over and over again each day is akin to asking them to go through a crucible.

Furthermore, after weeks of feeling like I’d become a permanent resident at the bottom of the world, I saw the local mental health team’s psychiatrist. To put it lightly, this guy was a fucking asshole. He clearly hadn’t read my notes, I told him I was suicidal and he responded by saying that the crisis team could do nothing to help me, and that I didn’t need the crisis team at all. He told me I was fine and left.

Also, even when I eventually ended up in hospital the experience was far from perfect. The lack of information, the short notices, the fact that therapy never happened even though it was scheduled several times a day. The fact that staff would threaten a mentally ill young person in order to scare them into submission. And in the first place, a young person, or indeed anyone, shouldn’t have to travel hundreds of miles from their home to receive treatment. The ward was vile, volatile and violent. The idea that anyone thinks that my care was stellar makes me livid.

Rant over.

M&M: Elliott Smith

M&M: Elliott Smith

By the time I’d discovered him, Elliott Smith had been dead for well over ten years. He remained an artist that was always on the periphery of my vision, but it took me a long time to finally approach. My approach was awarded with a bounty of astounding music. And it was only after I became immersed in his music that I realized what a talent we had lost in 2003. His death remains officially open, as verdict of suicide or homicide was not given. Whatever the circumstances of his death, it cannot be denied that a major talent was lost.

Smith constructs depression and addiction with a lyrical clarity, but he also brings to the table an unheard of element of the equation. He depicts these experiences sonically, making an absorbing sonic black hole smack against your ear drums with equal parts ferocity and delicacy.

Smith’s last record is often seen in the context of his death, but I think this would do the record a disservice. Smith died in 2003 yet the songs he recorded for what would be his final album, and which are held up as totems of suicide, were performed in the early 2000’s, as Smith toured for his fifth album, Figure 8. Smith seemed to have used music as a way of analysing his life, through metaphor and deep imagery. In these songs, Smith analyses the period where his drug use skyrocketed – due to now having a deal with Dreamworks records he had more disposable income to spend on crack.

Smith shows with cutting accuracy in these songs the allure of a high, but he doesn’t let himself off the hook either. He stares at and analyses depression and addiction unblinkingly. In a key moment in his final album, From a Basement on the Hill, Smith doesn’t spare himself, singing on ‘Twilight’, “You don’t deserve to be lonely, but those drugs you got won’t make you feel better/Pretty soon you’ll find it’s the only little part of your life you’re keeping together.”

From a Basement is filled with moments such as these that take your breath away. One such moments comes on the album’s centre piece, Kings Crossing. As the song distorts and the pitch becomes sporadic, Smith sings “Give me one good reason not to do it”. When Smith played the song live the audience would often sing in response “because we love you”. In the recorded version, his mother and his girlfriend can be heard quietly saying “because we love you”.

Moments like these define the experience of listening to Elliott Smith’s music. As achingly beautiful as they are agonisingly sad, Smith’s music often becomes an odd uplifting experience. Few artists have epitomised the term bittersweet as Smith’s music has. His subject is often bleak, as was his life, but ultimately Smith’s music is an extension of a hand, telling you you’re not alone. Taken as a whole Smith’s compositions are amongst the most emotive ever committed to tape.

As Dan Turkel wrote in an essay for Death & Taxes, “An Elliott Smith record is a declaration that it’s okay to feel… that every emotion can be made beautiful, and that suffering doesn’t preclude the ability to create something profound and amazing.” Smith ends King’s Crossing on the lyric, “don’t let me be carried away”. Unfortunately, Smith was carried away, but his music remains, reaching across time, reassuring you that it’s okay to feel with each and every chord.

A Troubled Cure for a Troubled Mind: Nick Drake

A Troubled Cure for a Troubled Mind: Nick Drake

Full disclosure: Pink Moon is one of my favourite albums of all time. Intense, poetic, spare and utterly gorgeous, Pink Moon is a triumph. Nick Drake, however, is something of an enigma. Only the bare facts have been known of his life until recently, that he was enrolled in a literature course at Cambridge and dropped out to pursue music, his success essentially guaranteed from those around him, including his producer, Joe Boyd, and the session musicians he played with. When his second album, Bryter Layter, didn’t sell well, Drake’s depression worsened. Shy and introverted, Drake gave one interview in his lifetime, and gave very few live shows. At these live shows he played his songs, taking a long time to retune his guitar for each tune, as many of his songs used very irregular tunings. People would talk over him and he’d simply walk off stage.

During his first and only tour, Drake rang Boyd and said he was finished. Due to their being no first hand testimony from the man himself, his songs are often used to elucidate light upon his mental state at the time. Bryter Layter shows traces of deep unease with living in London and a generally worsening mental state – no one knows how steep my stairs, no body sees how shaky my knees – he sings on ‘Poor Boy’. Drake’s elusiveness – a state that his mother remarked left her son as ‘a soul without a footprint’ – has allowed many myths and misconceptions to arise around him, and thus Drake is rarely seen on his own terms. Certainly I can make no claim to that. One friend remembered that, upon visiting Drake in London, he got no answer at the door. He peered in the window, and saw Drake, sat on the floor, starring at the wall. On one occasion his sister received a phone call from the police, as he couldn’t move at a zebra crossing. He’d been standing there for an hour. With his mental state worsening, he moved back in to his parent’s house, leaving London behind to return to the small village of Tanworth-in-Arden.

Drake was quickly prescribed anti-depressants. Eventually he would spend time in a psychiatric hospital. He found driving a great comfort, often calling his parents in the middle of the night, asking to be picked up, as he’d rather run out of petrol than ask the attendant for gas. He visited friends, but was often quiet and catatonic. Drake embodied the typical attitude of his time, as his father Rodney reports “he would stop taking them [antidepressants] and say: ‘I’m going to get through this my own way’”. From friends remembrances, it’s clear that Drake was ashamed of his depression, with one friend commenting, “”He would be staying at my flat and we would be talking, and he’d say: ‘Do you mind if I go into the kitchen and take my pills [anti-depressants]. I’m frightfully sorry, frightfully sorry.’” His mental state worsened, with Drake commenting “”I can’t cope, all the defences are gone. All the nerves are exposed” and “I can’t think of words. I feel no emotion about anything. I don’t want to laugh or cry. I’m numb-dead inside.”. He resented being at his parents house, telling his mother “I don’t like it at home yet I can’t bear it anywhere else.”

Amidst all this, he booked two midnight sessions to record what would be his final album, Pink Moon. With next to no overdubs recording was quick and the album saw release even quicker. Here Drake abandoned the orchestrations of his previous two albums, opting for a spare style. The album, bar a piano overdub, is just Drake and his guitar. The album is a slim twenty eight minutes long, however, as his sound engineer John Wood said, “If something is that intense, it can’t really be measured in minutes”. Wood said of the recording session, “He arrived at midnight and we started. It was done very quickly. After we had finished I asked him what I should keep, and he said all of it, which was a complete contrast to his former stance. He came in for another evening and that was it. It took hardly any time to mix, since it was only his voice and guitar, with one overdub only. Nick was adamant about what he wanted. He wanted it to be spare and stark, and he wanted it to be spontaneously recorded.”. The record is indelibly imbued with Drake’s worsening mental landscape, as he sings in ‘Parasite’ “take a look, you may see me on the ground, for I am the parasite of this town.”. Despite this, however, the album as a whole can’t truly be said to be depressing. As it opens, Drake sings “thought I’d see when day was done” and “give me a place to be”. In it’s middle section the landscape darkens, as Drake’s guitar cuts through the clean air, often piercing in its power and intensity. However ultimately the album, at its darkest point, begins to see light, and the album ends with imagery of the morning, after the night has passed, with Drake singing in the album’s final lyric “go play the game that you learnt from the morning”.

Unfortunately this positive note wasn’t reflected in Drake’s life. His mental state worsened as Pink Moon also failed to sell. Drake’s resentment grew, as many around him had promised him success. In his final recording session he recorded a song, Hanging on A Star, singing “why leave me hanging on a star, when you deem me so high?”. From his father Rodney’s diary, that he kept during this period, an image emerges of a young man who is sinking and doesn’t know what to do. He smashes chairs in frustration, and he can only point blame inward. Gradually, things seemed to improve, with Drake taking some time away in France.

However, this period wasn’t to last. Drake’s deterioration can be seen in the last session he ever did, where he was in such a state that he couldn’t sing and play guitar at the same time, something he’d previously always been able to do. His mental state also shines through in the final songs he recorded, among them ‘Black-Eyed Dog’, where he sings with resignation “I’m growing old and I wanna go home” ending the song with “A black eyed dog he called at my door, a black eyed dog he called for more”. Evidently, the black eyed dog wasn’t finished with Nick Drake.

Shortly after those final sessions, Nick Drake died, aged twenty six. The coroner ruled his death a suicide, having overdoseed on antidepressants. However this verdict has been disputed, as the antidepressants Drake was taking at the time were so potent that merely taking one more than the prescribed dose could have killed him. Thus, it remains in the eye of the beholder. Intentional or not, however, a young man remains dead, and all we’re left with is his discography, numbering at three albums, two compilations and a single John Peel session.

In the decades after Drake’s death his parents often received visitors wishing to honour Drake’s memory, with his parents often sharing his home recordings with visitors (hence the bootlegs that float around the internet). In the 90’s the titular song of his final album was featured in a Volkswagen advert, and within a single week Drake sold more records than he had in his entire lifetime. His stature amongst musicians only continues to grow. Nick Drake often said to his mother that he wished his music could have helped a single person, then it all would have been worth it. I, along with thousands of others can say that Drake has done just that and more, but unfortunately, he isn’t around to see it.

M&M: Radiohead – The Forest Fire

M&M: Radiohead – The Forest Fire

Okay, let’s get this out of the way. Kid A & Amnesiac hold a laureled place in my favourite albums list, so I’m not even going to attempt to write something objective or unbiased. Before I can go into the albums though, I need to give a little background.

During the promotion for OK Computer, Radiohead embarked on a gruelling world tour comprised of 104 dates. As the world tour progressed the group grew weary, and this descent is catalogued in the film Meeting People is Easy. The film captures the sheer suffocation of suddenly being in the spotlight very well and depicts the generalised anxiety and tension/stress on tour. Following this tour the group had come to loathe guitars, and Yorke had come to idolize electronic artists such as Modeselektor, Four Tet, Unkle and Aphex Twin. When asked in an interview as to why he adored such artists, Yorke replied that he liked the lack of identity within that genre of music. The artist’s real names were often not known and what little information that was released was scarce. Yorke would use many methods heard in these artists in Radiohead’s music, going as far as to distort his voice on the titular track of Kid A and on Amnesiac’s Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors. The band as a whole was consuming more varied music, from contemporary classical to Miles Davis and Charles Mingus.

It was during the OK Computer tour that something “inside Yorke “went pop” and he descended into a deep depression, losing faith in everything he and the group stood for”. A new approach was needed. Yorke had also been stricken by writer’s block. Unable to write songs, he put lyrics into a hat and drew them out, using the famous cut up method used by Bowie and Burroughs. When Kid A was released in 2000, listeners were met with an absence of guitar, they had been replaced by synths and drum machines. At the time, it alienated their fan base who merely expected a continuation of OK Computer, but its stature continues to grow as a piece of art with each passing year.

When I first heard Kid A, like most people on the first listen, I was flabbergasted. I simply didn’t know what to make of it, but I got the sense that it was important. Like most things I come to adore, I hated it at first. I returned to it after a few months, and it clicked. I adored it. The album was designed as a whole, designed as a piece of music to be listened to front to end, rather than listening to individual tracks. The album also had no lyric sheets, as the band felt as though the music couldn’t be separated from the music, they simply did not exist as a separate entity.

Listening to both albums, it is clear that this was Radiohead’s most fertile creative period. Both of the albums were recorded in the same studio sessions, and the band toyed with the idea of releasing a double album. Luckily, they decided against it. How two albums with markedly different moods and feelings were made in the same sessions in beyond me.

Undoubtedly, the albums are among the most personal that Radiohead have produced. Everything in its Right Place takes its titular lyric from something Yorke’s wife would tell him when he was having a panic attack. How to Disappear Completely takes its titular lyric from advice that REM’s Michael Stipe gave Yorke on tour. This personal edge I think, is shown the most on the last track of Kid A, Motion Picture Soundtrack. The band had played the song live in the Netherlands in 1996, and the lyrics are much more direct and personal. The lyric goes, in the 1996 version, “I think I’m going crazy, maybe”. The recorded 2000 version goes “I think you’re crazy, maybe”. Here Yorke has changed the first person to the second, and distanced himself from emotional turmoil. He begins to process and understand, come to terms with what has occurred.

While Kid A took me some time to warm up to, Amnesiac, on the other hand, I loved immediately, as soon as the eerie percussion of Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box hit my ears. Listened to back to back, the main different between Kid A and Amnesiac is this – listening to Kid A is like watching a forest fire, and Amnesiac is like being within the forest fire.

Amnesiac’s mood is much more claustrophobic and paranoid than its predecessor. This is made clear from the outset, as Yorke sings “I’m a reasonable man, get off my case”. And it’d say, it’s a much more intense, immersive and all-consuming listen. From the pulsating distorted beat on Pulk/Pull, to the cutting guitars on Knives Out, to the funereal jazz of the closing track, Life in a Glasshouse, Amnesiac takes you from agony to ecstasy and back again, warping your ears along the way. Amnesiac’s mood is one of paranoia, political unease and continually escalating tension.

Due to Kid A being released first, Amnesiac is often dwarfed in stature by its larger, more definitive older brother. The two albums were released eight months apart. This doesn’t mean that Amnesiac is merely a Kid A 2.0 however, rather, it stand son its own as a complete and separate work. Despite this, Amnesiac remains my favourite Radiohead album. When asked the difference between the two albums Yorke said “In some weird way, I think Amnesiac gives another take on Kid A, a form of explanation.” Elaborating on this, Bill Gibron writes in his article “The Art of Falling Apart that “In fact, the frontman would go on to explain that the first album was an accurate reflection of how he felt post-OK Computer‘s massive success, and that the follow-up was a way of sticking you in the middle of the fray and feeling every angst driven moment. In other words, Kid A was the art of falling apart, while Amnesiac was verification that said determined downward spiral was very deep indeed.

These albums also mean a lot to me personally. I found them before I ever had my own encounters with depression, but when these encounters inevitably came, I could point to their songs as examples of how I felt. I could point to the sonic vortex of these albums and convey something that I previously had no language for. The songs validated my feelings and made me feel less alone, and that’s all you can ask for from any art form at its apex.

Music has great power. Music enriches the human spirit and alleviates the brain of internal pressure and doubts. Music is a powerful tool, as has been shown by music’s power to unlock memories in the elderly with dementia and alzheimers. Music enriches our lives and we love it for good reason.Our musical brain is a thing to behold.

Yorke was asked during the press junkets for their 2003 album Hail to the Thief, “How does mental health impact your music?” He replied,

“One of the things for me, one of the things that I find most offensive about what people say about our music is when they say it’s depressing. The reason I find it offensive is that to me implies that to suffer from depression is like being sub normal, and it’s a stigma, and it shouldn’t because there’s an awful lot of people that suffer from depression and it shouldn’t be something that is like an ultimate swear word, because I suffer from it and a lot of people suffer from it, and um, it should be something that’s openly discussed and be accepted, and I happen to make music sometimes when I’m in that frame of mind because I suffer from it, but actually sometimes it’s not suffering, sometimes it’s a bonus, but sometimes it is a mental illness, and it means that I have empathy with other mental illnesses, because sometimes I feel that I’m close to certain things that could end up, you know, trap doors as I once called them that I could fall through. I really have a problem with people who dismiss art or music on the grounds that it’s depressing as a lot of creative power is from that feeling.”

And if anything is a testament to that statements truth and power, it is the albums that are forever conjoined at the hip yet are starkly different from one another, Kid A and Amnesiac.

Music & Mental Health: Daniel Johnston

Music & Mental Health: Daniel Johnston

I first encountered Daniel Johnston like most people did. Kurt Cobain had worn a T-shirt with one of Johnston’s album covers on it, and he even went as far as putting one of Johnston’s albums on his top fifty list. Being ever curious I googled Johnston’s Wikipedia page. I didn’t listen to anything then, and even if I had I don’t think I would have liked it. Years passed. Eventually, I start to idolize a little known band called Sparklehorse with something close to deity worship, and in trying to find everything they ever put to tape I found that they had contributed to a tribute album of covers of Johnston’s songs. The band had also recorded a cover of one of Johnston’s songs on their second album. Adding to my curiosity, the lead singer had even produced one of Johnston’s records.

Alright, I’ll bite. I started to sink my teeth into the compilation album The Late Great Daniel Johnston – Discovered & Covered. The list of artists doing covers reads like an all-star cast list. The eels. Death Cab for Cutie, The Flaming Lips, Beck, Tom Waits. Artists I had grown to adore in the interim period all liked this guy. The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O covered him. Even Lana Del Rey has done a cover of Johnston.

To be clear, Johnston appears to suffer from what I like to call Bob Dylan syndrome in regards to his music. That is, covers of his music are much more well-known than the originals, and thus in some form, be it through a cover or simply T-shirt artwork, you will probably be familiar with Johnston’s work. Johnston’s originals are a 101 class in lo-fi, outsider music.  Working as often as they don’t, they have a great charm to them. It seems as though this isn’t music you listen to in terms of chord progressions or artistry, rather you listen to it as a cogent whole, as an experience. You hear the crackle of the tape recorder that Johnston is using, you hear his fingers smack the piano in eccentric and ingenious ways.

I was intrigued enough to watch the documentary, The Devil & Daniel Johnston. I knew that Johnston suffered ill mental health as in one of the many interviews I had heard of Sparklehorse talking about him he mentions being intrigued by a man who would record cassettes in a psychiatric ward. I watched the documentary and saw the music anew. A story such as Johnston’s is so extraordinary it threatens to dwarf the music, which at the end of the day should be all that matters.

From an early age, Johnston was eccentric and enjoyed recording music and making artwork. Messy and often unruly, he vigorously self-promoted, recording his songs on a tape deck and distributing the cassettes with hand drawn art. His tapes quickly circulated amongst musicians who wished to know their source. As word of mouth grew about Johnston in his native Austin, to the point where he had sold out shows,  his already precarious mental health began to suffer, which wasn’t aided by Johnston’s recreational use of psychotropic drugs. Exhibiting symptoms that point toward a manic depressive illness that had ascended into psychosis, Johnston became increasingly unstable. He often vanished. A key event happened in the eighties, where, believing himself to be Caspar the ghost, he pulled the key out of his father’s plane and threw it out the window as they flew. Exasperated, Johnston’s father, a former air force pilot, landed the plane safely and the two walked away with minor injuries. The plane was totalled. Following this, his parents opted to commit Daniel to a psychiatric hospital for six months.

It was during his stay here that a bidding war erupted over Johnston. As Johnston had been sat in the hospital the frontman of Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, had been promoting him simply by wearing a t-shirt. Interest in Johnston grew exponentially. Elektra and Atlantic records tried to outbid each other, each wanting to win Johnston. Elektra out bid Atlantic but Johnston refused the deal. His delusions often fixated around religious figures such as the devil, and Johnston, in ill health, believed Elektra Records to be an extension of the devil. He refused to sign. Shortly thereafter he signed with Atlantic Records. A lo fi artist who had made his name via handmade tapes and word of mouth, and who was now a patient as a psychiatric hospital, was now signed to a major record label.

Johnston eventually recorded one album for Atlantic, and due to poor sales, was dropped from the label. Johnston’s mental health continued to decline but music remained a life line for him. Slowly but steadily, he began to live with his parents and resumed recording music and making artwork. Today, his health is still somewhat precarious, but his musical stature continues to grow, with the latest person to cover him being none other than Lana Del Rey.

I was particularly struck by the fact that Johnston’s notoriety reached a peak as his mental health descended, resulting in a hospital admission. When you’re in a psychiatric ward you feel as though you’ve failed society, and yourself, in some way. You feel as though you’ll never produce anything of worth again after being in that environment. So, to see Johnston record tapes while in hospital and release them to a rabid pack of fans, eagerly waiting for another cassette to emerge from Johnston as if from the underworld, is heart-warming.

Mental illness is often romanticised in regards to art. It goes without saying but this is absurd and to live with a mental illness is absolute agony, for both the sufferer and those around them who love them. Yes, it’s true, many great artists have had mental illnesses in their lives. However, the art isn’t made because of the illness, but in spite of it.  Johnston’s story would have been remarkable even if any and all illness were stripped away, after all, the boy who made his name on self-circulated cassettes and word of mouth, was now a mythic figure in the lo fi scene and is revered/covered by artists the world over. When you factor in Johnston’s mental illness the story becomes nothing more than inspirational.

How Students Against Depression Saved My Bacon

I was ready to die. I was drunk again and my mind set was growing irrevocably worse. Things were only going to go downhill from here and I knew I couldn’t do that. I felt trapped. I vaguely remember drunkenly walking home to my flat and not looking across any of the roads I crossed. The pretense of an accident would make my death easier to bear for those closer to me, or so I thought.

I sat at the kitchen table and waited for my body to register what my brain so desperately wanted to happen. I guess I must have googled depression, and stumbled across Students against Depression. It seemed incomprehensible that other students were in the same position as me. On the Students against Depression website there is a large green button in the right hand corner, which says “desperate right now?” I clicked on it.

I was then lead to a page with large headers and I read this “If you are about to harm yourself or have already done so, phone 999 or get yourself quickly to your local hospital’s A&E (accident and emergency). Tell them clearly that you are at risk to yourself.” And I did just that.

I walked into my flatmate’s room sheepishly and said that we had to go to A&E. He asked why. I didn’t really give a reason, I just said that it was something I had to do, that it was a last resort. It was what I had been told to do. The taxi was expensive but money didn’t mean much to me in my mental state. I walked into the A&E and toward the receptionist. I said that I was a danger to myself, but it took a while to say. It was as though my tongue was repulsed by the words and refused to utter them.

After waiting in the waiting room for a while I was called through. I was asked many questions, almost none of which I can recall. I was probably still a bit drunk if I’m honest. One thing I do remember though, is that I had two options. No assessors would be on hand until the morning, so I could either stay the night or I could go home. I knew what would happen if I chose the latter, so I stayed.

The night oozed on and morning eventually came, and I was ushered into another room. I was let go as quickly as I had come in, armed with some leaflets on depression. I felt like I’d done something wrong. This was my last resort and it didn’t work. I went home and quickly got drunk to forget about it.

To cut a long story short, I was eventually detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. I was assessed and it was advised that I go to hospital. I said yes, and ended up some hours away. After weeks of switching medications we hit the nail on the head and my mood began to improve. After about a month or so I was discharged and I slowly wandered back into my university life.

What I can’t deny though, looking back on it, was that if I hadn’t have stumbled upon the Students against Depression site I probably wouldn’t be here. And that’s amazing. People often say that our constantly plugged in and connected society is a scourge upon humanity, but I would rebuttal this by saying that a site that wouldn’t even exist twenty years ago saved my bacon. And that’s something to keep in mind.