Councillor’s frank admission over mental health struggles to encourage others ‘they are not alone’

Ben Lawrie.

A Tayside councillor has told how he is getting help to fight his demons – but no longer contemplates taking his own life.

Monifieth and Sidlaw Lib Dem member Ben Lawrie said he is undergoing private counselling and taking medication to help him through the dark days but said it breaks his heart that not everyone is so fortunate.

Mr Lawrie, a fourth-year psychology student at St Andrews University, said he wanted to speak as openly as possible about his struggles ahead of the release of a documentary about his mental health journey which he hopes will assure others going through similar difficulties “that they are not alone”.

Mr Lawrie attempted to take his own life in 2013 as he struggled with depression while studying at Dundee College, despite doing well in his coursework and being in a happy relationship.

He said: “Since then, I’ve noticed that the stigma has been greatly whittled down.

“People are a lot more open about mental health, a lot more willing to talk about it, quicker to recognise when their mental health is deteriorating and quicker to seek help for it.

“Also, those who have never been affected by mental illness seem to be a lot more understanding of those who have.

“There’s still so much to be done but it’s really encouraging to see how far we’ve come.”

Mr Lawrie first started campaigning on mental health issues three years ago and said services remain as “horrifically underfunded and understaffed” as they were back in 2015.

He said: “In short, people are now more willing to ask for help, but we need to make sure it’s there when we do.

“We have some fantastic mental health professionals working hard so this is by no means an attack on them.

“What we need is the resources to deliver the services needed — it all comes down to political priorities.”

Mr Lawrie said he is now able to live a “fuller life” thanks to counselling and medication which he admitted has made a huge difference to his life.

“Depression and anxiety are things that still really affect me to this day,” he said.

“I still have dark days but suicide is something I’ve thankfully managed to rule out now.

“I’m lucky that I’m now able to afford private counselling and it’s really made a huge difference to me.

“It breaks my heart that not everyone has the same privilege to be able to pay for counselling like I do and it makes me more determined to campaign on improving our public mental health services so that everyone can get the help they need.

“I’m also on Beta Blockers now which don’t affect my depression at all but have really helped my anxiety and are helping me to live a fuller life.

“It’s important to be able to communicate how you’re feeling to your loved ones as well.

“Sometimes this is easier said than done as it can be hard finding the words to explain what you’re going through.

“This shouldn’t put you off trying though — people generally care more about you than you realise.”

Mr Lawrie has been working on a documentary called “A Confession of Depression” over the past couple of years with local filmmaker Stuart Burns.

The documentary is due for release on YouTube on March 14 after a screening at Monifieth High School for the people involved in the production.