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The journalist and mental health advocate talks about his own illness and coming to terms with it in his book, Everything Begins With Asking For Help.
On the surface, Kevin Braddock was a successful writer and editor for some of the world’s biggest magazines. But a mental health crisis turned everything on its head and when he came out the other side, Kevin was committed to raising awareness of men’s mental health and helping people find ways to deal with it. The result was the book, Everything Begins With Asking For Help. We sat down with the author to find out more.
I had a breakdown while living in Berlin in 2014 and had suffered from depression and anxiety for a long time before that. My background is working as a journalist in print media for titles including The Face, GQ, Esquire and The Guardian, and I started to write about my experiences of mental illness and recovery and these eventually got turned into my book Everything Begins With Asking For Help: An Honest Guide from Rock Bottom To Recovery. The most important message is what it says on the cover: if you’re struggling, ask for help.
Self-reflection, especially working with a counsellor or therapist, is a very valuable experience, even if it is often hard work and demanding. But the better you know yourself, the better you are able to cope with what comes your way. Life can be tough for anyone, regardless of whether they have mental illness or not, but the more time one takes to know and develop yourself, the better equipped one is to deal with the things, both good and bad, that inevitably come our way.
I can only speak for myself as a man, but I’d say that men find it hard to open up about emotions and feelings that are difficult to deal with, especially shame, which is very wrapped up in the experience of mental illness – the feeling that I am not good (or strong, successful, rich, sexy, or clever) enough. On the other hand the stigma attached to mental illness has been declining for some time now, which is good. We still have a big problem concerning men, depression and suicide (which is the biggest cause of death for men under 49) and the pandemic has brought a whole range of new problems to light, including isolation, loneliness and the question of purpose. The more we, as men, confront and address the problem, the more we can begin to deal with them, collectively and individually.
Having a breakdown and being taken to hospital was very hard, but the recovery process was even harder – the daily grind of dealing with depression and anxiety and trying to rebuild my life. I decided I wanted to get better and put myself to it and kept asking for help – seeking advice from other people who’d been through similar things, reading a lot, going back to university, finding some discipline and above all, allowing others to help me. But it was one of the best things that has happened because it showed me I needed to change and live my life a bit differently. It’s not easy to change one’s life, but it is possible by breaking everything down into tiny steps and doing one thing at a time. And – very important – being patient.
My book offers stories and suggestion for anyone recovering from or dealing with depression and anxiety. There is a lot anyone can do to build their own recovery practice – and that’s what it comes down to, daily practice – but as I said, it all begins with asking for help and finding people who can help you to address what you want to change in the first place. That’s the hardest step of all.
I am training to be a counsellor and among the things I’ve learned is that humans are way more complex than we might imagine. There is a huge amount to learn about what makes people tick and what makes them blow up too, but also that mental illness can be lived with and even turned into something valuable. And lastly, that we all need help. No man is an island, as someone much wiser that me once said. And that we are always in a process of change.