Video: Northern Ireland man who battled back from mental health issues offering support to others
A man who battled back from the brink of anxiety and depression is now offering to meet up with and help others who are struggling with mental health problems.
20-year-old Thomas Watson, from Newtownabbey, shared a video on Facebook detailing his battle with mental health issues and the affect they had on his life.
He decided to speak out after losing a number of friends to mental health issues. The video quickly went viral and has amassed nearly 180,000 views on the social media site.
The PSNI have used the video to highlight mental health issues surrounding young men. 297 people took their lives in Northern Ireland in 2016, with 221 of those being men.
Thomas said that the reaction to his video has been incredible.
"It was overwhelming, I didn't expect such a big response. I wasn't expecting it to reach so many people," he said.
"My (Facebook) mailbox hasn't stopped, I've met 12 people for coffee since the video was posted."
Thomas wants to help people by lending them a friendly ear when they are struggling and giving them the perspective of someone who has been in a dark place themselves.
"They are all telling me the same thing at the start of the conversation, but by the end we are talking about numbers for counselling.
"I know I'm doing the right thing and helping people, which is good. I take pride in it, but it's not about me, it's about helping as many people as I can.
"Something needs to be done."
Thomas is hoping to study to be a counsellor and help other people through his own experiences.
"You'll get a lot of people who don't like speaking to counsellors, they do a great job and it's not easy, but some people struggle to relate to them and would rather speak to somebody who's been there, in the same situation as them," he said.
"I'm a Christian and believe this is the calling God wants me to do. I've left my job and am going to start studying and looking into courses.
"I want to pursue this as my full-time career."
He talked about how his outlook on life had changed since suffering from mental health issues.
"Whenever I was suffering from anxiety and depression, it's so hard to describe what's going on in your head, it's like nobody can understand," Thomas said.
"People do understand, people have been where you are, but you think nobody understands. You start to make things up in your head and believe them.
"It feels like you're in an endless tunnel but when you get out of it you start to appreciate life, the small things.
"I used to be materialistic but now I appreciate things that come every day, like a small view.
Thomas reiterated his offer for anyone who needs someone to talk to to get in contact with him.
"If anyone needs to reach out or needs someone to talk I'm easy to reach on Facebook.
"I'll always be there to listen to people and talk to them.
"That's all someone wants, to sit down and have someone listen and chat to them and tell them how much their loved and worth.
"There's always one person out there who loves you."
Thomas can be contacted as firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at 'Thomas Watson'.
See Thomas' story in full below:
So, I decided it was time to make this video. I’m asking everyone to please watch it & also share it. Thank you. #ItsOkToTalk 💛Posted by Thomas Watson on Monday, June 4, 2018
Belfast Telegraph Digital