“I honestly don’t know whether life is worth living any more.”
That was what Shaun Haymer told the LionHeart support officer who answered his call just before Christmas last year. At the time, he was out of work due to ill-health and struggling to pay his RICS annual fees.
He’d been ill for some years but doctors had struggled to give a firm diagnosis. Eventually he was told he had fibromyalgia, a condition which can cause acute pain and severe fatigue.
By then, coping with his physical illness had also taken a terrible toll on his mental health, and left him feeling low and suicidal.
He says: “It had got to a bad stage; I was very desperate and gave up on everything. I had poor concentration and short term memory, aches and pains all over my body.
“When I spoke to LionHeart originally the only reason was to get help for paying my RICS subs fees. When the person on the end of the line was very understanding and caring, it took me by surprise.”
Shaun told support worker Tracy Vernon (pictured above together) he had “quite rationally” considered suicide - and even had a timeline for carrying this out.
LionHeart authorised financial help straight away, helping arrange a concession to cover Shaun’s RICS fees and relieve any immediate money worries. Tracy also began making regular calls to support Shaun, even texting him while the LionHeart offices were closed over Christmas as she was so concerned for his welfare.
Shaun recalls: “I’d lost hope that my quality of life was going to improve. I was utterly desperate and isolated. I debated quite calmly whether continuing to live was worth it.”
He’d been suffering in silence for so long, while trying to stay in work, that sharing his feelings turned out to be a great relief. He said: “I was hiding how I was feeling. I was coming into work day after day after day, feeling pretty lousy, concealing any problems I might have - just being really lonely.
“I think it sometimes takes other people to recognise exactly what you are facing to work out what help you might need. I was very grateful to LionHeart for their help.”
LionHeart supported Shaun financially and emotionally while rheumatology consultants tried out different medications and treatments. Finally, with the worst of his symptoms controlled and a better understanding of his illness, he was in a position to resume his career.
For the first time in a long time, Shaun feels like he has a future.
He bravely agreed to be filmed sharing his story in the hope that it might persuade others to reach out for help.
He says: “I’m not necessarily a very open person, but having health problems has made me realise that nobody can live in isolation. It’s nice to know there are people there to help you.
“The thing about mental health, it can be a source of shame; it’s tough to tell anybody that you are struggling, but I’d advise people, overcome your reluctance to ask for help. Put your pride aside, because it’s a false pride really.”
If, like Shaun, you’re facing physical or mental ill-health and would like to talk to someone, please call us on 0845 603 9057, or email us.
Our experienced support officers and counsellors can offer help in all sorts of situations.