Oli Jones was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013 after bouts of depression in which he had suicidal thoughts
- Suffered crushing lows where he wouldn’t get out of bed for days
- Also experienced ‘highs’ where he would barely sleep and over-exercise
- Is now recovered and is campaigning to raise awareness to men’s health
PUBLISHED: 9 January 2016
Sat at the wheel of his car, Oli Jones was ready to end his life.
As his hands gripped the steering wheel, he almost moved to make the turn that would result in a crash from which he wouldn’t return.
Then, at the last moment, he stopped himself.
‘I just couldn’t do it to my kids,’ he said, thinking of Lily, now seven and Wynn, three.
His own father had committed suicide when he was just 18 months old, and he didn’t want his own children to grow up without him.
He was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and is now stable, recovered, and thrilled to be back at work as a tennis coach.
Now, he is campaigning to raise awareness to men’s suicide and wants to encourage men who are struggling to cope to ask for help.
Oli Jones, 33, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a bout of suicidal depression six months ago. He has now recovered and is campaigning to raise awareness to men’s health
After struggling with his emotions since his early 20s, Mr Jones began feeling suicidal in 2012. He thought about driving his car off a bridge, or ending his life with carbon monoxide
Mr Jones, 33, told MailOnline: ‘Men are supposed to be strong, it’s difficult to admit our feelings.
‘There’s a barrier to do with masculinity that stops men from talking. They have a front up.’
He added: ‘Men think if they ask for help then they’re letting people down.
‘But you’re not letting anyone down. Everyone needs to talk about things, everyone needs help.
‘We need to teach men to be in touch with their feelings so they don’t spiral out of control. It’s not a sign of weakness.’
Last year, more than three-quarters of all suicides were men and suicide was the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK – with 12 men taking their own lives every day.
And a recent survey by suicide prevention charity CALM found four out of ten men have considered killing themselves.
Mr Jones, from Sale, Manchester, continued: ‘Financial troubles, relationship problems. Depression amplifies all of those. It’s an illness which leads people to take their own life.
‘A normal stable-minded person can handle those things. It’s not external things that cause suicide, it’s part of the illness.’
He was diagnosed with bipolar after struggled with his emotions for years.
He became depressed in his 20s at university, where he began lacking energy, felt tearful, and often stayed in bed for days on end.
‘I used to say I had headaches or a cold to hide it,’ he said.
Less frequently, he experienced ‘highs’, in which he would sleep for only a few hours, or stay up all night, feeling full of energy and brimming with ideas.
Additionally, he would have grandiose thoughts and exercise intensely, going to the gym and playing tennis as often as possible.
On one occasion, he went to the supermarket and came back with nothing but six mangoes.
‘I didn’t even like mangoes,’ he said.
Despite his struggles, he managed to finish university, and build a successful career as a tennis coach.
He married his girlfriend, Stephanie, from whom he is now separated, and became a father.
On paper, he seemed to have an idyllic life.
But in 2012, he was diagnosed with depression and prescribed anti-depressants after becoming suicidal.
He suffered from catatonia, a symptom of the illness where a person moves very slowly or stops moving altogether.
He said: ‘It can have quite physical symptoms. I stopped being able to walk and talk. I stopped getting out of bed. I had no appetite.
‘For the birth of my son, Wynn, I couldn’t look after him very well. I wasn’t functioning.’
He had constant suicidal thoughts, and says he very nearly attempted to end his life on one occasion.
He said: ‘I hid it from my family – I didn’t tell them I was suicidal. It’s difficult to talk about things like that.
Mr Jones would sometimes experience manic highs as well as depression. At one point, he went to the supermarket and bought nothing but six mangoes
Now he has been prescribed Lithium for his bipolar disorder, which has stabilised his mood. He is thrilled to be back coaching tennis, and the Lawn Tennis Association has made him an ambassador for mental health
‘I almost attempted suicide. I was sat at the wheel of the car and was going to do it. I wanted to drive off a bridge. Or use carbon monoxide.’
But ultimately, the thought of his children held him back.
He said: ‘I didn’t want them to grow up without a father.
‘I lost my father at 18 months. He was being treated for depression and he wasn’t taking his meds when he died.
‘I was raised by a step-dad who was amazing, but it played on my mind not having a father.’
At first, the anti-depressants improved his symptoms, but he soon regressed and once again became unable to function.
Six months ago, his mental health has deteriorated to the point that his mother had to intervene, taking him back to her house to recover.
He saw a psychiatrist, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Mr Jones coaches 250 children at his health club. He says being honest about his psychological problems allowed his employer to support him
Mr Jones appeared on Sky News speaking about men’s health, as part of charity Movember’s campaign in 2014. He wants to continue raising awareness about
It was a relief to be diagnosed, and Mr Jones was immediately prescribed lithium, a mood stabiliser.
‘Six months on I’m back at work, I’m back playing tennis,’ he said.
‘My mood is stable. I can handle life again. I’m functioning. I can look after my children. I can make plans for the future.’
He was always honest with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) about his mental health problems, which in retrospect he is extremely glad about as it allowed them to give him support.
This year, they made him a mental health ambassador, and next year the LTA will collaborate with the charity Mind to promote the benefits of physical activity for people’s mental health.
He said: ‘They have been so supportive – as have my colleagues.
‘There are 250 children at our tennis club – someone else took over the admin for me when I couldn’t work.’
‘I’m so honoured to break down the stigma for mental health problems.’
‘If I can save one life my job will be done.’
WHAT IS BIPOLAR DISORDER ?
Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).
When a person become depressed, they may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities.
When their mood shifts in the other direction, they may feel euphoric and full of energy.
Mood shifts may occur only a few times a year or as often as several times a week.
Although bipolar disorder is a disruptive, long-term condition, moods can be kept in check by following a treatment plan.
In most cases, bipolar disorder can be controlled with medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy)
Source: Mayo Clinic
To talk to someone confidentially, call the Samaritans on 116 123. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Alternatively, visit their website –http://www.samaritans.org/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.