Lewis urges men with mental health issues to seek support

A former sport development manager at Burnley Football in the Community has urged people suffering from mental health issues to ignore any stigma around the matter and come forward to seek help.

Lewis Rimmer, 28, of Colne, says he went through a period in his life when he was losing control of his own destiny but tried to suppress his suffering because to be open about it wasn’t a ‘manly’ thing to do.

However, because his sister was suffering non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and he was helping take responsibility for her, he was allowed to seek help at Pendleside Hospice.

“Pendleside changed my life in a way,” says Lewis, who is now an equality and diversity specialist at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Lewis’s sister was diagnosed with cancer aged only 21 and on the day of diagnosis received literature describing the services on offer at Pendleside. Three years on she is now in remission.

But helping his sister and carrying out his daily role at the football club took its toll on Lewis.

He said: “I took everything on my shoulders and neglected myself and my own well-being. It was just work, work, work of some description every hour trying to take my mind off seeing someone so close to me suffering. Even when my sister’s condition improved I was getting worse. I was even becoming reckless at work and I couldn’t understand what was going on. I became unrecognisable.

“I was having an internal battle in myself which I didn’t understand and couldn’t diagnose. I felt I may be having a breakdown but there is such a stigma around mental health, especially with men. But I realised I had to do something.”

Lewis added: “After getting to breaking point I decided to seek support and remembered the literature my sister had received and arranged to attend a drop-in session at Pendleside, the most difficult phone call I had ever had to make. When I went I felt so bad and weak because there were people there suffering from cancer and things. Mental health issues are invisible so to others I looked ok.”

Lewis was offered a course of counselling sessions with Andrea Orme-Wright, a family support counsellor at Pendleside.

He said: “Even though at first I was still struggling to understand my mental health, from the moment I met Andrea she provided the reassurance and support I needed and now my whole life has improved. Everything is back on track.”

Now Lewis is urging others who are struggling with mental health issues to seek help.

He said: “Very few people know I have been to counselling and when I first went to Pendleside it was pre-Covid so my sessions were face to face. In a way I was ashamed and embarrassed and I even used to park my car out of sight so that no-one would know I was there.

“But, now, I want to make my situation known. I want to inspire other people who are suffering like I was. I want them to know that there is help out there and lovely places to go to like Pendleside which cares not only for people suffering life-limiting illnesses but also for their families and carers.

“The whole process of getting help from Pendleside took only a matter of two to three weeks. It was very quick.”

Lewis went on to say: “Andrea has reframed my life and how I look at things. I felt exhausted after some sessions but it was all so worthwhile. It has all been about rebuilding my life and concentrating on me. She has given me a completely different outlook on my life.

“Now, when I am talking to others, in all walks of life, I can talk about my own experiences and pass on the knowledge that I have been given. I can’t thank Andrea and Pendleside enough.”

Andrea, who joined Pendleside in 2017, said: “I salute Lewis for coming forward and raising the awareness of mental health issues involving men. He has become passionate in his quest to make other people aware of the support that is available to them through Pendleside Hospice.

“When he first came to the hospice he was very nervous so it has taken huge courage for him to reach out and appeal to other men to come forward. It has been such a privilege working with Lewis – as it is supporting all of the people who seek our help.

The Pendleside Hospice family support team is able to help those in need of support when a family member or friend have been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness or who may have sadly died.