MENTAL health problems affect one in four adults yet the stigma surrounding them means people often suffer in silence.

It can take many forms and can be triggered at different ages. For some it is a condition they have from childhood while others find that stressful life events can spark issues such as depression and general anxiety disorder, the most common problems, but many people also live with long term problems like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and many more.

Myths and misinformation can leave people feeling even more lost and isolated, so today we kick off our special eight-week series into mental health in a bid to separate fiction from fact and highlight the practical help that is available.

We speak to real people about their experiences and how they have coped under the most challenging circumstances.

Today, Bradford man Ian Lamb, 38, bravely opens up about his own struggles with anorexia nervosa and recurrent depression. He was just 14 years old when he suffered a complete mental breakdown and ended up in hospital.

Men are known to be a particularly vulnerable group. Rates of suicide among males in the western world are almost double that of females and the reluctance to talk about their feelings is often cited as a reason why this figure is so high.

Ian says: “I grew up in a single-parent family. My dad was in and out of our lives and that might have contributed to my early problems.”

Born and raised in the district he attended Wibsey Middle School then Buttershaw Upper where, he says, the troubles took hold.

“I was bullied quite a lot at school. It was mainly about my weight and my sexuality. I hadn’t come out then and I felt like I didn’t fit in. I found it a lonely experience; it was hard for me to connect with others.”

When he was 14 his grandmother, whom he was very close to, passed away.

“This was the trigger for my disordered eating. I couldn’t control losing my grandma or the bullies but I could control what I ate.

“First I stopped eating meat then fish then I wouldn’t have milk in my tea. In the end I was surviving on one apple a day.”

His weight plummeted to six stone and his desperate mother took him to the doctor.

“I was told that if I didn’t put weight on then I would have to be hospitalised.”

But Ian couldn’t get out of that destructive mind-set.

“Losing weight empowered me. Even though I was suffering from terrible stomach cramps due to hunger I couldn’t eat.”

Eventually he collapsed and spent six months in hospital.

“The main focus was to put weight on, none of the psychological issues had been addressed so when I got out of hospital I was still in the dark place.”

Looking back, Ian says that he probably wasn’t even massively overweight.

“It was just puppy fat but in my head it was a lot worse.”

He says he was shocked when he was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.

“I thought it was only a disease that women could get. I was in denial about it so that didn’t help.”

Ian returned to school and found a teacher to talk to but essentially his problems continued in the same vein.

“School remained a struggle. It was very isolating.”

He had been under the care of the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS) but fell through the net when it came to transferring to adult services.

This left him even more vulnerable.

He was unemployed for six months after leaving school then found a job at a care home.

There have been very dark times, he says:

“There are days when I literally can’t get out bed, when I have been lying in my urine because I haven’t got the energy to go to the toilet.”

He says suicidal thoughts have been a constant and he once acted on them.

“People say that ending your life is rock bottom but I say that there is an even worse state. It’s when you want to end your life but you don’t even have the energy to get up and do it. That, to me, is the worst.

“I haven’t been catatonic but I have been close. It feels like a massive brick on my head just pushing me down, crushing me. And what people don’t understand is that although it is a mental illness it affects you physically. It takes away your ability to function. You just stop being.”

However, despite this battle with darkness, there has been some light and he credits mental health charity Mind in Bradford as a life saver.

“I went before when it was in a different location and I didn’t have a good experience. But the new one based at Kenburgh House in Bradford is so much better, it has been a literal lifeline.

“I am so glad I went back.”

As well as the building itself being more welcoming he says it is easier to access the help.

“I have found it understanding and supportive and it has helped in practical ways.”

He has been following the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) delivered by Mind in Bradford and says a routine has been key to changing his life around.

“I try to get up every day at the same time, I have to make sure I eat breakfast every day. If I don’t I can easily slip back into not eating anything for the whole day. I force myself to go for a walk. Getting fresh air for even a short 15-minute walk is good and I enjoy writing a blog for the charity website.”

Despite the challenges he also holds down a job at Bradford Royal Infirmary which he will be returning to in July and volunteers at Mind in Bradford.

He is close to his brother and his mother lives around the corner and their support has been invaluable too.

However, since lockdown his mental health has taken a hit.

“I suffered from coronavirus symptoms and immediately lost my appetite. I couldn’t taste anything and because of my history that set me back. It’s very easy for me to fall back into that pattern.”

He says he would urge anyone struggling with their mental health to seek help.

“You go to the group sessions and people talk about how much pain they are in but then you never see them again. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t try to access whatever help was available. There is no point in suffering in silence, the problems won’t go away by themselves, you just sweep them under the carpet and end up going round in circles.

“Unfortunately there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, especially for men. You feel like you must be weak or lazy or stupid but it’s an illness and I do think talking more about it, getting this issue out in the open more is one way of tackling that stigma.

“People say laughter is the best medicine but I say talking is.”

For more on Ian’s story go to

Mental health and wellbeing services are still here to help during the pandemic.

People of any age who want to speak to someone about their mental health can call Guide-Line, the confidential telephone support and information service run by Mind in Bradford, on 01274 594 594.

The line is open every day of the year, from 12pm midday to 12am midnight. You can also speak to the Guide-Line team over live chat at

People experiencing a mental health crisis should always call First Response on 01274 221 181 which is open all day, every day.

Guide-Line received more than 7,000 calls in the 12 months up until the end of March 2020. Reasons for calling included anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, family and relationships. Since March 2020, the service has grown by extending the offer to children and young people, having more people answering calls and longer opening hours.

For general enquiries about Mind in Bradford call 01274 730 815 or visit their website:

This article has been supported by Bradford Council.