Ex-councillor shares his battle with anxiety and depression

Josh Brandwood and his partner.
Josh Brandwood and his partner.

A former councillor has shared intimate details about his battle with anxiety and depression.

Josh Brandwood, 23, from Lancaster, said he contemplated suicide after finding out his first child would not survive childbirth.

Josh Brandwood.

Josh Brandwood.

The former Morecambe Town Councillor said he hoped his personal journey would help others with mental health issues.

Men in the UK aged 20 to 49 are now more likely to die from suicide than any other cause of death, and the issue has become a major topic of discussion and concern across the country.

Recent figures from the Samaritans reveal that 6,639 people in the UK and Republic of Ireland died from suicide in 2015, 75 per cent of whom were male.

Suicide in females – and children – is also at a record high.

Josh said his experiences with the mental health service often left him losing all faith in medical support.

He said: “Whilst battling with severe anxiety and depression I found it very difficult to listen to authoritative figures, in fact, I distinctly remember telling my doctor that I am beyond help.

“I didn’t have much confidence in my doctor’s surgery because I was often given different GPs each appointment.

“The array of doctors I met had a flippant tendency to undermine my symptoms which did not help my confidence or mental health.

“Each appointment I was asked by the doctor to fill out a generic patient health ‘PHQ-9’ questionnaire.

“I recall reading the poorly designed questions and slowly losing all faith in medical support.

“I obviously cannot speak on behalf of every person, but I think more time and effort should be spent on properly diagnosing patients with mental health.”

Josh also said he was concerned how quick doctors were to offer medication for his anxiety and depression.

He said he hated the idea of using pills and declined every time they were offered.

He said he was eventually referred to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but the treatment never materialised.

“I did not receive any correspondence from the mental health nurse until eight months later and by this point I had given up,” he said.

“I do however sympathise with medical practitioners because they do not have a comfortable ride, especially considering reductions in NHS funding.

“I have even gone to the extent of not visiting my GP practice because I personally feel a burden on the system.

“However, I am not advising anybody to avoid visiting their GP if they require medical support.

“If you need to go, then go, do not hesitate.”

Earlier this year, Josh and his wife discovered they were going to be parents.

He said it was the first time in his life where he felt in control, and that “things were no longer about me”.

He said: “It gave me a real sense of purpose. The day soon arrived when my partner and I got to see our little baby for the 12-week-scan.

“As we apprehensively sat in the waiting room at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI) my partner and I discussed baby names.

“We were called into the radiography unit by a lovely nurse who then introduced us to the baby sonographer and finally we could see our baby.

“However, it was not good news.”

The couple were told that the baby had a condition called encephalocele and would not survive childbirth.

“My partner and I were placed into the ‘grievance room’ and a medical consultant gave us a detailed prognosis whilst tears fell down my partners face,” he said.

“I was completely numb. My partner and I were referred to St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester for a second opinion because we were simply in denial and did not want to accept that we would lose our baby.

“Our fears were confirmed after our appointment in Manchester, so we decided that the best course of action was to accept a medical management procedure at the RLI.

“Witnessing my partner give birth to our beloved baby is the most harrowing experience I have ever endured.”

Josh said he tried to remain strong for his partner, however, the experience triggered his depression and he “simply did not want to be here any longer.”

“All sense of purpose was removed the minute I learned that my partner and I would lose our baby,” he said.

“Upon reflection, I think how incredibly selfish I was for contemplating suicide when my partner needed me most.

“At the time I was not thinking rationally, but why would I? Our baby had been taken away and there was nothing that could be done to reverse the situation. Since losing our beautiful baby, my partner and I have grown much closer and since married.

“We are both receiving specialist support and continue to move from strength to strength. Our plan is to raise as much awareness around mental health. Nobody should suffer in silence.”

He said despite his “rollercoaster experience”, he remains optimistic, mainly due to help and support from family and friends.

“My anxiety and depression seem to be under control,” he said, “but I use the term ‘seem’ loosely because it tends to rear its unwanted ugly head whenever it feels.”

Josh offered some advice for other people battling mental health.

He said: “Tragically, so many people out there feel isolated and dread sharing their emotions.

“There are too many people out there who over-simplify the complexity and sensitivity of mental health.

“If somebody is battling mental health, don’t tell them ‘you will get over it’, it isn’t helpful. Instead, be compassionate and show empathy.

“Too many men are ‘toughing it out’, keeping their feelings to themselves and struggling in silence.”

The Movember Foundation aims to reduce the number of male suicides by 25 per cent by 2030 through raising funds and awareness around the issue.

On Sunday November 26, Josh Brandwood will be running 15km along Morecambe Promenade for the Movember Foundation.

He will start at VVV Gym and run along the prom to The Battery at Sandylands and will return to the Clock Tower to complete the run.

He said: “I am asking the wonderful people of Lancashire to join me on my challenge.

“If you would like to participate on the day then arrive at VVV Gym at Hest Bank for 12pm.

“Please do not worry if you need to slow down, take a break or stop.”

Alternatively, if you can’t make the run, you can sponsor Josh via the Movember website: https://uk.movember.com/mospace/13620205