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One man's desperate struggle to get the mental health support he needs.

Gary Maddran has struggled with his mental health for years - he is urging health chiefs to improve services urgently

 'Change your diet and get some exercise'.

Gary Maddran had heard this advice before.

But after years of suffering with anxiety and depression, he knows it will take more than these simple measures to truly change things.

And after experiencing ‘unrelenting’ suicidal thoughts over the last few weeks, Gary asked for help again.

He said the advice was the same as when he first sought help five years ago - eat well, get regular exercise.

But after years of suffering with anxiety and depression, he knows it will take more than these simple measures to truly change things.

After experiencing ‘unrelenting’ suicidal thoughts over the last few weeks, Gary asked for help again.

He said the advice was the same as when he first sought help five years ago - eat well, get regular exercise.

“Five years on, I thought we’d progressed in attitudes towards mental health, and it saddened me to have to go through the same thing again,” he says.

But he hopes that by speaking out, he can encourage positive change in a system that he feels is cracking under the strain.

Diagnosed with anxiety and depression more than five years ago, Gary's problems actually started when he was around 13.

As a teenager he says he would dread going to school; a feeling that continued into college and drama school and developed into depression as he got older.

Despite struggling for years, it wasn’t until he was 21 that Gary first sought professional help.

He was initially told to try changing his diet and exercising.

“I had already done all that. I’d been doing that for a long time,” he says.

He sought a second opinion and was offered medication, which he says did help. But to this day, Gary is still trying to access the right method of care.

The assistant manager, from Salford, works full time, has a house with his fiancé and says he has ‘great friends and family’ supporting him.

But his symptoms have recently worsened and he has had suicidal thoughts.

“I began having unrelenting intrusive thoughts about killing myself,” he says.

“And though I suffer from mental illness, I’m not crazy, and knew I had to seek professional help."

At his lowest point, Gary says he was desperate for a ‘one-to-one’ service that simply wasn’t available to him.

He says: “I told them what was happening in work and my manager put me in touch with helplines and groups.

 “One helpline told me there were no counsellors available, but they would call me back. I never got a phone call back.

"While another said they offered only short term counselling, took my number and said I had to ring them back. Even me ringing them in the first place was a big step.”

"How is it that we, as a society, are more aware of the problem than we’ve been before, have developed ‘resources’, and yet continue to do so little?

"My manager sat in tears of frustration and disbelief. Determined that I wouldn’t leave the room without proper help, she researched, dialled and spoke to anyone who would listen.

"Through no fault of her own, she was unable to help.”

Gary says that when he tried to get an emergency appointment recently, he couldn’t get through. He was later told there were no emergency appointments available that day.

He says: “I’m a 27 year old male, statistically the biggest killer of my demographic is suicide. And when I let out a cry for help, I got told to 'call back tomorrow'.

“I can’t accept that’s the best we can do.”

Gary says he was advised that he could either call back the following day, go to a walk-in centre or present at A&E. But the thought of going hospital was just too difficult.

"You feel guilt for even trying to access help because you know A&E is for emergencies," he says.

“We know the statistics, too many times we say 'if only they’d gotten the help', but what does that even mean when the things in place for that purpose don’t fulfil their duty?"

He adds: “I think mental illness affects so many people, and it’s just a blanket term for lots of different things. But at the same time, they just use the same old methods thinking ‘this will work’. Rather than listening to each individual."

Salford CCG, which has responsibility for Gary’s GP surgery, said suicide prevention is a 'key priority' in Salford and the body invests a 'significant' amount of money in GP practices - much of which is spent on additional staff so that doctors can see as many patients as possible.

By Beth Abbit / Manchester Evening News