A doctor who considered taking his own life after crippling depression left him unable to leave his home has urged others in the same situation to recognise the symptoms and not be afraid to ask for help at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week.
Dr Richard Gorrod, who is a Service User Governor with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), did not realise just how unwell he had become until he woke one morning and could not get out of bed.
He was referred to NSFT and spent several months receiving care within the community and as an inpatient at Great Yarmouth’s Northgate Hospital before he hit rock bottom and was referred to the Priory in Chelmsford, where he was able to begin rebuilding his life.
Dr Gorrod is now working to raise awareness of mental ill health, especially among fellow professionals who may not recognise they have a problem. He has shared his story in the run up to Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from today (Monday 8) to Sunday 14 May.
Organised by the Mental Health Foundation, this year’s event focuses on “surviving or thriving”, and looks at the steps individuals can take to look after their mental health and build resilience to cope with the demands of life.
“I didn’t see my illness coming at all,” said Dr Gorrod, who lives in north Norfolk and was a partner at Fakenham Medical Practice for 20 years. “I was fairly capable in various fields and had a supportive family and lots of friends. I had never been mentally ill and my physical health was also pretty good. But then one day, I just literally could not get out of bed.
“With hindsight, I think the illness had been creeping up on me for a couple of years, as I was becoming less tolerant and finding it more and more difficult to concentrate. When I had my crash, I was frightened of anything and everything. We live in a very rural area and every time a car drove past I was paranoid it was someone coming to harm me. I felt pretty worthless and guilty about not working, and my self-esteem was very low.”
Dr Gorrod was admitted to the Priory after confessing plans to take his own life to his NSFT psychologist. There he took part in talking therapies and cognitive behavioural therapy while also working on his self-esteem, and has made a good recovery as a result.
Now retired from general practice, Dr Gorrod regularly presents to medical students at the Universities of Cambridge and East Anglia on the subject of mental health, and has also given a talk at the Royal Society of Medicine in London. A trustee of the Norwich and Mid-Norfolk branch of Mind, he is now targeting sports clubs and gyms to raise awareness of the importance of safeguarding mental health.
“Although I am no longer working as a GP, my life has gone on and I’ve used my recovery to get involved with lots of other projects,” said Dr Gorrod. “We want society to reach a stage where people who sees signs of mental illness in others feel able to broach the subject and have confidence that they will get a positive response.”
Anyone who thinks they may be suffering from depression should talk to their GP or contact Wellbeing Norfolk and Waveney by visiting www.wellbeingnands.co.uk or calling 0300 123 1503. People in Suffolk can contact Wellbeing Suffolk on 0300 123 1781.
For more information about Mental Health Awareness Week, visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk/MHAW