After suffering with mental health issues for the majority of his life, Darren Bryan has overcome his trauma through the support of Andy’s Man Club - a mental health charity designed for men - allowing him to “see his purpose in life again”.
Darren Bryan, 49, from Edinburgh, suffered with severe anxiety and became depressed at the age of eight. Since primary school, he struggled to fit in and socialise with his peers and described his school as a very “hostile” place and “not enjoyable”. He said: “I was never academic, and felt very isolated. When I was eight I started feeling suicidal and had my first attempt at killing myself.”
Since then, Darren never fully understood what it was that was making him so desperately unhappy.
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He said: “At thirty years of age I hit rock bottom and started feeling very negative. I hated life. I suffered from really bad depression which was a burden and I didn’t know if I was coming or going from day to day. I just didn’t want to live.”
But Darren was determined to overcome his mental struggles. He said: “I love people, I love talking and it was the opposite of who I was.”
After his family and friends started recognising the dire mental state Darren had reached, he was sectioned and spent a number of years being treated at St John’s Hospital in Livingston, during which time he was officially diagnosed with depression and schizophrenia.
He said: “Mental health will never go away, I recognise there will always be rough patches, but it is how we deal with those bad moments that matter.”
Now Darren is on a mission to walk 424 miles from Milngavie to the Shetlands to raise awareness for all mental health issues, as well as to raise £1,000 for Andy’s Man Club which helped him at some of his lowest points.
He also wants to show the benefits of talking about mental health and get away from the idea of men’s struggles as a “taboo subject” and the stigma around it. For many years, Darren kept his emotions bottled up but said talking about his problems was “a breath of fresh air”.
He added that he had “found his purpose” through the walking challenge and said he hoped “to help other people suffering with mental health issues and stop the shame in talking”.
“The people around me keep me going,” he said. “At one point in my life I felt like everybody was nasty and there was a lot of darkness in my life, so just by people talking to me I felt like I had woken up.”
He now aims to "help other people, no matter what” and continue on his challenge to “give others hope”.
Darren plans to arrive at the Shetlands by the 2nd of June – his parents’ golden wedding anniversary – as a special tribute to those who have helped through the darkest times of his life.
“My mum was my rock, which is what stopped me from committing suicide all these years, because I would think about how she would feel,” he said.