WHEN Bryan Millan went for a drive one night in February, he made plans to take his own life.
The 41-year-old, from Edinburgh, had battled with depression “on and off” for a number of years and felt he could no longer go on.
But the NHS worker decided to turn his car around and head to Tynecastle Park stadium – home turf of his beloved club Hearts FC.
It was there he met with a group of blokes from The Changing Room, a scheme set up by men’s health charity Movember.
Using football as common ground, the programme aims to bring men together and encourage them to open up to each other about their mental health in a bid to reduce suicide rates.
Suicide is the single biggest cause of death in men under the age of 45 in Britain – with blokes three times more likely to kill themselves than women.
Shining a spotlight on the topic is to try and save lives, which is why The Sun Online launched the You’re Not Alone suicide prevention campaign almost exactly a year ago.
Hitting a low
It was during the course of the programme that Bryan came close to taking his own life, and would have gone through with it had it not been for the friendships he’d forged in The Changing Room.
He said: “In February this year I hit a low point. I had intended to take my life.
“But then I remembered that I had arranged to see the lads from The Changing Room that night, so I turned the car around and went to see them instead.
“I told them what I had nearly done and although they were shocked, they were all very supportive.”
Louise found me unconscious when she got back home from her shift and called an ambulance
Bryan, who lives with his wife Louise, 41, initially connected with The Changing Room after trying to take his life in October last year.
He said: “I’ve suffered from depression on and off for years but things worsened last October and it was starting to affect my marriage.
“My wife Louise is my rock and I couldn’t bear the prospect of losing her. I started to think everyone would be better off without me.
YOU'RE NOT ALONE
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
- Movember uk.movember.com
“My wife is a nurse and one night she was on night shift so I tried to take my own life.
“It didn’t work – Louise found me unconscious when she got back home from her shift and called an ambulance.
“I was signed off work and I had to have six sessions with a psychologist before I was discharged.
“I found the clinic where it took place actually quite intimidating and impersonal. No one ever actually asked me how I was.”
Fortunately, Bryan found The Changing Room, and his diehard support of Hearts FC encouraged him to take part in the programme.
He said: “I’m a lifelong Hearts fan and through the club I heard about the Changing Room programme.
“I went along to the launch night at Tynecastle Park and started on the 12-week course. I remember the first night and everyone was very quiet.
“Although I knew everyone there was in the same boat, I still had the feeling ‘will everyone judge me?’
“It took a while for everyone to start opening up and talking and feel like it was a safe environment.
I still have my good and bad days – but at least now I have a network of people I can turn to
“At the time, Hearts weren’t doing that well and it was great for everyone to be able to have a bit of a moan about that first.
“It was a real icebreaker with the rest of the lads.”
Bryan, who has two daughters Terri, 24, and Emma, 21, feels if it wasn’t for the programme, he might not be here to tell his story.
He said: “I still have my good and bad days. But at least now I have a network of people I can turn to if I’m having a tough time and a ‘toolbox’ of techniques to help me cope with difficult times.
“Getting outside and taking a walk helps and I’ve now got two dogs who are like therapy for me.
“Taking up yoga has also been fantastic for both my physical and mental health. If it wasn’t for Movember and The Changing Room, I wouldn’t be here today.
MORE ON YOU'RE NOT ALONE
“I’m so lucky to have taken part. I’d love for other men to be able to benefit from it.”
Ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, Movember is encouraging men to be a man of more words.
For more information visit Movember.com.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans (free) on 116 123.