Robert Beaumont continues his series on mental health with a moving interview with North Yorkshire sports coach Jonathan, whose life has been blighted by depression but who has been given hope by York Mind
Jonathan, now 43, has been suffering from clinical depression since the age of 20, though he recalls periods of stress and anxiety during his teens as his parents divorced and he struggled with the particular pressures of changing schools in the middle of his A-levels.
It was at university, however, when full-blown depression tightened its unforgiving grip on this likable, brave and honest man.
Uni was Liverpool and despite the city’s unique cultural vibrancy, it was not the happiest of experiences.
Jonathan’s degree was one which is conferred on a student who is too ill to take their exams. It grimly underlined his plight.
Spurred on by his political conscience and moral compass, Jonathan worked for Amnesty International in London between 1993 and 2005, before switching careers to sports coaching. He returned to his home county of Yorkshire in 2009, where his brave battle against depression entered a new and pivotal stage.
‘I was in a terrible state’
After a futile visit to his GP (an all-too-familiar story, alas), and with dark thoughts about suicide swirling around his mind, Jonathan stumbled into York Mind’s Highcliffe House HQ in Clifton.
“I was in a terrible state. I needed help, but I wasn’t sure what kind of help. I couldn’t think straight and was in tears.
“I didn’t have an appointment, but to her everlasting credit, Alison Moore, counselling manager at York Mind, came down to see me and spent an hour of her precious time listening to me pouring my heart out.
“I owe Alison so much. She just understood me completely,” said Jonathan. “Her empathy was extraordinary.”
There then began a productive series of counselling sessions between Jonathan and Alison, which have allowed Jonathan to pursue an active and fulfilled life, keeping the black dog of depression at bay.
Whilst I understand that anti-depressants play a vital role in combatting depression, their side-effects damage my ability to be a first-class sports coach. In my job, you have to be focused and on the ball, you can’t afford to be detached or drowsy.
So all I had to help me was Alison. But she was more than enough.
Such was Jonathan’s gratitude to York Mind that he made the courageous decision to run the gruelling 26-mile Yorkshire Marathon in 2013 as a way to fulfil a long-time held personal ambition and also to raise money as a thank you to the charity.
“Jonathan was such an inspiring person to support in his ambition to complete this challenge and fundraise for York Mind,” said Holly Pollard, community fundraiser for York Mind.
“His journey has been incredible. In such a short period of time he has turned his life around with the help of the sessions”.
I know from bitter experience that in a crisis situation intervention is required immediately. I was helped in that way and I will never forget that help. It has changed my life.
Jonathan added: “This was my way of saying a massive thank you to everyone at York Mind.
“I am a committed advocate of their counselling sessions and it is tremendous news additional rooms at Highcliffe House are enabling more counsellors to work with a greater number of people experiencing mental distress.
“I know from bitter experience that in a crisis situation intervention is required immediately, I was helped in that way and I will never forget that help. It has changed my life.”
Today Jonathan leads an active and fulfilled life though, as he accepts, it would be glib and facile to say that his depression has disappeared. That is not the nature of that destructive beast.
But his one-to-one counselling sessions at York Mind over the past couple of years have provided him with the mental means and strength to carry on.
Together York Mind and Jonathan are tackling the depression which has blighted his life for the past 23 years and, for that, Jonathan will be forever thankful.