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Movember Ambassador, Chris MurrayImage by: Robin Boot Photography
man stood outside barbers
man smiling in barber chair
7 June 2022

Chris’ story: using my experiences to influence change for the better

Mo Bro and Movember Ambassador
Chris Murray
6 minutes read time

"After approximately 18 years of periods of poor mental health and suicidal thoughts, I was suicidal in July 2016. I couldn't keep feeling like this anymore, going round in circles. After being taken into hosital by ambulance twice in 48 hours I was diagnosed with clinical depression, anxiety and OCD - which means I live with these conditions with medication and therapy on occasions. I have also been assessed for Bipolar and take anti-psychotic medication for bipolar type 2. Even though people knew I had of periods of depression before, I wasn't open about just how serious this was and the thoughts I was having. Upon diagnosis the psychatrist said that previous treatment had been a sticking plaster and treated 'in the moment'. At the point friends and family knew I had been taken into a hospital, it felt like a huge weight was lifted on my shoulders, as I'd been carrying this around with me for many years.

When I felt over whelmed or emotional through my late teens into my 30's, I would often leave a bar or nightclub without telling anyone before I got upset. I used to get taxis to drop me off 5 minutes walk from home as I knew I was going to be upset and needed to make sure I didn't show this to anyone.

During summer 2016, I looked after a friends new puppy, which was the only thing that got me out of the bed for first few months, and subsequently did an article for the Metro about my journey that summer. Dogs and animals are amazing for our Mental health and wellbeing, and also our physical health and giving us a routine. I have a border collie called Cooper who is 2 in June. He is amazing. He knows when I'm not at my best and gives me extra cuddles and encourages me to get out of bed.

" At the point friends and family knew I had been taken into a hospital, it felt like a huge weight was lifted on my shoulders, as I'd been carrying this around with me for many years. "

I first became involved in Movember running the 2017 London Marathon. This gave me something to focus on and motivated me to undertake regular physical exercise and eat better, which in turn helped imporve my mental health and overall wellbeing. Shortly after in July 2016, I went to the toilet in the morning and passed blood. My immediate thoughts were cancer. For the next few weeks I continued to pass blood but didn't tell anyone. What if I did and it turned out not to be then I've worried people for no reason. In those following weeks I started to undergo tests. Between every test I had to wait 5-6 weeks. During this period it seriously impacted my mental health in a negative way. Even though I hadn't been diagnosed it impacted how I thought about myself and the future. I eventually told some friends and family because due to waiting times for appointments it was taking months. This helped to talk about it and get support. It eventually took almost 6 months to be given an all clear. That was a big relief but the worry remained for a while as they couldn't explain what caused it.

Since 2017, I started to share my journey and raise questions about mental health awareness and policy in the workplace. I then started to raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing and then qualified as a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and recently Suicide First Aid Instructor, and raising awareness and training on resilience, wellbeing, and self-care too. For the last 5 years I’ve run my own training and consultancy business, working across all sectors delivering training and developing and implementing Mental Health & Wellbeing strategy and policies. I'm extremely passionate about mental health and helping others. I focus a lot of my work on D&I, Equality and Equity and intersectionality, specifically LGBTQIA+ & Race (these minority groups are twice as likely to develop poor mental health/live with mental health conditions). These communities continue to face additional stigma and discrimination and hate crimes have increased year on year the past few years. Unfortunately in May 2022 I was subject to a homophobic attack which the police recorded as an LGBTQIA+ hate crime. This had a negative affect on my mental health, but accessing support and talking about what happened helped.

A lot more work is needed to ensure everyone, especially minority groups, have access to, and are given the right support and treated as a human being. Legislation is needed to make Mental Health First Aid a legal requirement to have parity with physical first aid, and I believe all emergency services/health professionals and teachers need this and Suicide First Aid training, as they may often be the first to notice signs and symptoms of someone needing support. We need to do a lot more to help the homeless too, who also face stigma when the trigger for their situation is commonly liked to poor mental health (or poor mental health as a result of being homeless) and also for some being LGBTQIA+. We also need to look at the role of social media and being safe online (especially for young people), and the role education in schools can play. What someone says in the street that is a hate crime/discrimination, should carry the same weight as online. This has real life implications and negative effects on someone’s mental health & wellbeing - and their life.

Personally, In terms of overall mental health and well-being I still have periods where I need additional support. Like many, the pandemic and lockdowns was very hard to deal with, but I know my triggers, where and how to get help and support. Since 2016 being suicidal I have been very open and encouraged others to get support, because its #itsoknottobeok. Talking to someone about what you're feeling can be a game changer - a life saver. I'm passionate about the work Movember does to raise awareness, especially as a male myself I felt that I had to be stronger and couldn't be open about how I was feeling, and saw it as my role to support others instead. When you're not feeling good, whether that's physical or mental health (which impact each other), it's important to put yourself first, start a conversation and get the help and support you need, because it's out there and could change your life too.

During Pride month I’m working with colleagues to continue to educate and raise awareness around LGBTQIA+ and how people can become an Ally and the role they play. It’s important that we have allies to speak out and use their voice to support and influence change for the better.

One area I’m co-leading on with Ade John is a proposals to apply for tender of London Pride. We’re working with the community and are keen to hear from others about what they want to see from a new organisation. D&I, Equity & Equality will be central to our core values, to ensure representation and everyone in the community has a voice. If you're interested in finding out more or getting involved please contact Chris at"