‘Depression happens, it happens a lot and it’s fine’ – Sheffield dad opens up on mental health struggle
Jonathan Middleton is a chatty, approachable, as ‘normal’ as it gets Yorkshireman with the build of a rugby prop forward.
He also suffers from anxiety and depression.
After going through one of the most difficult periods of his life over the last 12 months, last week Jonathan called a phone-in on Rony Robinson’s BBC Radio Sheffield show on the subject of ‘battles’.
After listening to his story, the show’s producers asked the 38-year-old father-of-three back on the programme the very next day.
He then spoke for around an hour and a half, expanding on what he had said the day before and taking calls from other listeners.
The Wednesdayite, from Aston, now wants to share his story with an even wider audience, in the hope that his experiences can inspire others in the same position to talk openly about their feelings.
He said: “The condition is itself a battle but the main battle for me is to fight the stigma that is attached to it. That is the reason people don’t want to open up about it like they do other illnesses.
“People don’t want to be branded as having a mental health condition because they think of someone sitting in a hospital in a straightjacket but it is not like that.”
Jonathan has been a curriculum leader in health and social care at Rotherham College for the last eight years after previously spending 10 years as a nurse.
He and his partner Becky live separately but are still together, deciding to take things slowly as he recovers from his latest bout of depression.
Jonathan said it is good that mental health was more in the public eye these days with people like Wednesday player Sam Hutchinson, the actress Claire Foy and even Prince Harry opening up about their struggles.
But he also said it was important that ‘everyday’ people do the same.
“I just want to be someone there saying this happens, it happens a lot and it is fine,” he said.
“And to encourage people to open up and get support.”
Jonathan was in his late teens or early 20s when he first experienced depression and he has since had 12 instances ranging in severity over the last two decades.
The first episode started after he went through three bereavements in just two weeks, after which he experienced a period of low mood lasting six months.
After seeing his GP he was put on medication, had some counselling and assumed ‘that was that’.
“I thought I had cracked it but in reality you never crack it and it is about being aware of that,” he says.
“You try to find reasons why it might be happening, like your finances, but if you were thinking rationally you could just control that but you don’t.
“The mildest type is feeling low for a bit longer than normal but the worst would be completely stopping enjoying things that you normally would.
“You are off food, off watching things you would normally like on TV, not seeing friends.”
Sadly, the most serious episode of depression Jonathan has had occurred within the last 12 months, when he was hospitalised after finding it impossible to concentrate or even talk.
A counsellor was so concerned he referred him to a doctor, who then recommended a period of rest and recuperation in hospital.
It was while he was in hospital that Jonathan finally began to understand his condition better thanks to a consultant.
“He explained it in much more detail and said it was part of me and I would have to be more mindful of accepting that,” he said.
“I had symptoms for a month beforehand and I just tried to keep my head above water but I was having to dig so deep.
“I would advise people to speak to someone. It doesn’t have to be someone medical, even if it is just making contact with friends and family. Opening up to someone you feel close to.”
Jonathan recommends Mind or the Samaritans, but has also been talking to a new group based in Chesterfield called Men Talk, who hold their meetings at the town’s football club.
“It is just a group which encourages men to talk about their problems and time permitting, I would love to set something like that here,” he said. “There is definitely a need for something like that in Sheffield. It could help so many people.”