Andrew's Story: Opening up on mental health after attempting suicide at 28
Warning: This article contains references to suicide which some readers may find upsetting
Andrew Cave tried to take his own life at 28.
Bottling up years of bullying from schoolmates, denying the grief of losing his grandmother and the knowledge his mother had attempted suicide more than once was a huge burden to bear. But after opening up to friends and family about his mental health, Andrew is encouraging others to find support through the NHS and Newcastle United Foundation’s Be A Game Changer campaign this International Men’s Day.
“It was weird because I’d been thinking about it for a very, very long time, but I never ever thought I would act on it,” Andrew explains.
“It was one day last year – my wife, Kirsty, was at work and I was at my mother-in-law’s house and there were tablets on the sofa next to me and I just started taking them.
“I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I just couldn’t stop.”
The now 29-year-old from Kenton, Newcastle, recalls how his impulses took over and the moment he swallowed the last pill, he asked himself what he was doing.
“Pretty much straight away I told my wife and I went to hospital and I had to stay in for a few days,” adds Andrew.
“When I was lying in the hospital bed that night, I knew I didn’t want to die – I was so, so scared.
“I knew it was time for a change. I’ve been up and down since then, but I’ve never had any thoughts about ending my life again.”
Andrew grew up in Blakelaw, an avid Newcastle United supporter who enjoyed emulating his heroes on the school playing fields and football pitches with friends.
But it was doing something he loved that led Andrew to experience relentless bullying from his peers and teammates, who constantly called him “the fat kid” throughout his school years. It was a thoughtless nickname Andrew carried with him for years.
“No matter what I did, I was always a chubby lad in school – I used to play on every football team, I’d play basketball, I was one of the most athletic kids in the school, but I could never lose the ‘thing’ that I was the fat kid.
“It does take a toll on you being known as that person, when you’re trying your best not to be. I used to hide everything by being the funny guy in school too – I didn’t want anyone to think I was this weird, miserable person.
“I’ve always put a brave face on so nobody else would feel the way I did or would even know I how I felt. I would always try and cheer everybody else up instead.”
Even to Andrew’s closest friends and family, his deteriorating mental health was invisible.
It was by joining the growing Be A Game Changer Facebook community support group of more than 2,300 United fans that helped the McDonald’s employee to begin opening up about his wellbeing.
Through his good friend, Thomas Graham, a Health and Wellbeing Project Officer at Newcastle United Foundation, Andrew finally felt he could share what he’d held secret for a lifetime.
Andrew explains: “I knew Thomas was involved with the Be A Game Changer campaign and that it was about mental health. I play FIFA with him on the PlayStation and we were playing a game and I just blurted it out and told him about what happened – he was one of the first friends I told.
“It’s only recently – since my suicide attempt last year – that was the very first time that I’ve spoken about anything, even to my wife, Kirsty.
“It came to the point with my wife that we were actually close to breaking up because I was that secretive – it’s just not a nice place to be. She knew I was down and tried her best to encourage me to talk, but no matter how supportive she was, I always shut her out.
“She’s been incredible and now I’m really open with her and everyone I speak to – even friends that I haven’t seen since school, they’ve seen the video and they say it’s unreal, they would never ever think I would be going through all that because I was always so happy.”
Andrew is one of more than 800 men engaging with the Be A Game Changer campaign through the Foundation’s health and wellbeing activities, including mental health workshops, Walking Football, Over-40s NHS Health Checks, MAN v FAT and the 12th Man programme.
Support is also available online through the Be A Game Changer Facebook community group, bringing together like-minded people in a welcoming and compassionate space, sharing their experiences and advice for maintaining physical and mental wellness.
And as a proud advocate for the campaign, Andrew hopes his journey to happiness inspires others in his situation to not follow the same path he did.
He says: “In the past, I had spoken to my doctor, told them I was feeling a bit low and they gave me some tablets. But, to be honest, I didn’t take them because to me there was a stigma that it meant I wasn’t okay and I didn’t want to be a person who relies on medication.
“But now, I actually am taking prescribed medication and it’s helping me one hundred per cent.
“To anyone else who feels as low as I did, just get in touch with anyone you can. Even if it’s friends, family – look at me, I’m a perfect example. I waited too long and it led to that bad part of my life.
“Now I’m on the other side of it, I’m really lucky I can advise other people to get as much off their mind as they can, as soon as they can if they’re feeling a little bit low – don’t take a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
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