Barry Gourlay’s story will be one familiar to many men who have struggled with their mental health over the years.
What began as work stress piled up and spiralled out of control, eventually leading to a nervous breakdown.
Barry, 44, remembers: “I was working in an insecure workplace and there were a lot of stresses and strains that came with that.
“I struggled through it for years with my mental health.
“Around 2018 I was made redundant twice. I also had a best friend who was terminally ill. In 2019 I hit rock bottom and I was in a really dark place.”
‘I was a shadow’
The dad-of-two continues: “I was a shadow of how I used to be, just wanting to lie in bed for days.
“Sometimes I would drink too much, trying to compensate for how I was feeling.
“I felt pretty lost and didn’t know where to turn.
“I felt alone. Although I had great support from family and friends, nobody really understood me. It was a very dark, lonely place.”
‘It’s not about manning up’
Barry always felt comfortable talking about his mental health issues – the problem stemmed from talking to people who didn’t understand what he was going through.
“People used to say ‘man up, chin up, you’ve got a good job, a great family, you have nothing to worry about and everything to live for.’ But it didn’t help.
“It felt terrible because people thought by saying that I’d automatically snap out of how I was feeling, but it wasn’t possible.
“It’s not about manning up or being manly, it’s about trying to understand why you’re feeling like this.
“People telling you to ‘man up’ all the time, it’s degrading and makes you feel like you’re less of a man because of how you’re feeling, which really isn’t true.”
‘I walked around, putting it off’
The turning point came for Barry when his wife suggested he attend an Andy’s Man Club meeting – weekly talking groups for men to share their problems and offer each other advice.
Barry recalls: “Before the first meeting I felt awful. I walked round Dunfermline bus station about four times, putting off going in.
“But as soon as I got in the door it was brilliant.
“I was really nervous but once people started talking, it was like ‘these guys speak the same language as me’. They’d all been through what I’ve been through.
“It was fantastic, it’s like a brotherhood.
“I just cried at most of the meetings, to be honest. There was loads of crying, but also loads of laughter.
“It’s just a bunch of blokes sitting around, getting stuff off their chests. It’s non-judgemental, I could tell those guys things I hadn’t been able to tell my family.
“I could tell them anything because I didn’t feel stupid.”
While Barry still occasionally struggles with his mental health, he has found the talking therapy at Andy’s Man Club to be transformational.
He and fellow facilitator Kevin set up a Kirkcaldy branch of the group in September and Barry is using his own experience to help other men.
He enthuses: “To go through what I have and to give something back to others to help them out, it’s brilliant.
“For me it’s all about welcoming the guys in, making them feel comfortable, giving them a brew and a safe space to talk. It’s amazing.”
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