Lancaster vet uses own battle in fight to end mental health stigma

Lancaster vet James Glass.
Lancaster vet James Glass.
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A Lancaster vet has spoken out about his mental health battle that left him feeling suicidal.

James Glass, from Lancaster Vets in Bowerham, says there is now light at the end of the tunnel after suffering from severe depression.

Lancaster vet James Glass with dog Jasmine.

Lancaster vet James Glass with dog Jasmine.

And now, as Mental Health Awareness Week is marked across the UK this week, James wants to encourage others not to suffer in silence if they are struggling with mental health issues.

UK vets have a suicide rate almost four times higher than the national average. Record numbers of veterinary professionals are reaching out for support from Vetlife Helpine.

Vets commonly attribute their psychological distress to problems at work, including work intensity, long working hours and intense demands.

James’s ordeal began in March 2018 when a close friend took his own life and he was working longer hours than he should have done.

Lancaster vet James Glass.

Lancaster vet James Glass.

“I remember finishing work and looking at the contents of our practice drug cabinet and wondering if I should go home or end it all,” he said.

“I lost all interest in life and made plans to end my life because I couldn’t face living how I was living anymore. I was emotionally distressed and felt as if everything was crashing down around me.”

James, 52, was signed off work, prescribed anti-depressants and placed in the care of a psychiatric team.

With the support of wife Debbie, who is practice manager at Lancaster Vets, their children, John, 18, and Amy, 20, and colleagues, James is pulling through.

He feels it is important to tackle the stigma of mental illness to encourage others suffering from depression and anxiety to seek support.

James continued: “I feel it is important to talk about what happened. We need to be open and honest about the fact that depression is an illness and it can affect anyone.

“I got to 51 without any problems. I was easy-going, sociable and used to take long working hours in my stride. I was always optimistic and never had any issues.

“A member of staff left, and I was working more than I should have done. I wasn’t sleeping well, which is a red flag for mental health.

“When a close friend took his life in March 2018, I expected to be full of grief, but I really struggled to move on from that.

“By June last year, I really wasn’t well, but my professional pride stopped me asking for help. I lost interest in life and everything became dull and lifeless. That’s when I started contemplating suicide.

“To my shame, I came into the practice one morning and completely lost it. I screamed and shouted at the team and everyone was in shock because it was so out of character for me. It rang a huge alarm bell and I had to apologise.”

The incident jolted James into contacting his GP by email, unburdening himself by revealing how ill he felt and his plans to end his life.

“You don’t come to a point where you think suicide is a good idea, you reach a point where you can’t face living how you are living,” said James.

“You can’t see a way forward to get better and you think about a way out. I had hidden a lot from Debbie and it was a huge shock to her when I told her everything.

“My GP told me to stop working and diagnosed severe depression and suicidal intentions.

“I spoke to a mental health nurse and told her I felt it was inevitable I would take my own life at some point. I went from the care of my GP to the care and supervision of the NHS psychiatric service. It had been like a dam being held back and then everything falling apart.”

The practice is part of VetPartners, a UK veterinary group, which provided support to James during his slow road to recovery.

He said: “Our VetPartners business development director Jason Atherton provided amazing support and even came to consult at the practice to help us out during my absence.

“VetPartners were so caring and supportive throughout. I was able to have honest communication and say I was struggling without feeling under pressure to return.

“VetPartners has raised awareness of wellbeing issues, but by supporting people, they have backed it up with deeds, not just words.

“I’ve had a serious mental illness but the vast majority of people do recover from this.”

Running has helped James on his road to recovery and he will take part in the Edinburgh Half Marathon on May 25 with Kirsty Barker, clinical director at Ashlea Vets in Carlisle, and Jason Atherton from VetPartners.

The trio are raising funds for Vetlife, a charity that provides emotional, financial and mental health support to the veterinary community.

To donate, visit https://www.justgiving.com/James-Glass2?

Mental Health Awareness Week

Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 takes place from May 13 to 19. The theme for 2019 is Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies

Mental health problems can affect anyone, at any time. So for one week each May, the Mental Health Foundation campaigns around a specific theme for Mental Health Awareness Week.

Since their first Mental Health Awareness Week in 2001, they have raised awareness of topics like stress, relationships, loneliness, sleep, alcohol and friendship.

Hundreds of schools, businesses and communities have come together to start conversations around mental health that can change and even save lives.

This year, they want to reach more people than ever.

Last year they found that 30 per cent of all adults have felt so stressed by body image and appearance that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. That’s almost one in every three people.

Body image issues can affect all of us at any age and directly impact our mental health.

However there is still a lack of much-needed research and understanding around this.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation will be publishing the results of a UK-wide survey on body image and mental health, looking at body image issues across a lifetime – including how it affects children and young people, adults and people in later life – and highlighting how people can experience body image issues differently, including people of different ages, genders, ethnicities and sexualities.

They will use their research to continue campaigning for positive change and publish practical tools to help improve the nation’s relationship with their bodies.

How to get help

*If you are concerned that you are developing a mental health problem you should seek the advice and support of your GP as a matter of priority. If you are in distress and need immediate help and are unable to see a GP, you should visit your local A&E

*The Samaritans offer emotional support 24 hours a day – call free on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.uk

*You can call the Rethink advice and information line Monday to Friday, 10am-2pm for practical advice on 0300 5000 927 (calls are charged at local rate)

*Call the Mind infoline on 0300 123 3393 (UK landline calls are charged at local rates, charges from mobile phones will vary) or email info@mind.org.uk

*You may find it helpful to talk to your partner, a relative or a friend about your problems. They may be concerned about you and welcome the opportunity to hear what you have to say. If this is not possible, you may prefer to talk to someone else you can trust, like a faith leader or a tutor