It wasn’t until Davy McCord was hit in the head by his wife, wielding an iPad, that he knew he had to get help.
“I was asleep but woke to find I had my hands around my wife’s throat. She grabbed the closest thing she could find, which was the iPad.”
Davy, a lorry driver and Unite shop steward, suffers from complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after a career in the army that lasted 17 years. Davy has witnessed unthinkable violence in multiple conflicts, from Iraq, to Bosnia and others.
“The Balkans was particularly bad,” he tells UniteLive. “People talk about ethnic cleansing as a concept but we had to witness the actual reality of it – we had to watch first-hand. Kids screaming is one of my triggers.”
Thanks to counselling and medication, Davy says many of his symptoms, such as anger, have improved. He’s hopeful that a new therapy he’s recently started, Eye Movement and Desensitization Reprocessing (EDMR) will help, too. But managing the disorder will be a long battle for him.
“Little things can still set me off. Sleep of course is a big struggle,” Davy explains.
As a lorry driver, Davy endures working conditions that often exacerbate mental health issues.
“The long and erratic hours, the time away from your family and friends who are your emotional support system, lone working – all of these issues in the sector combine into a toxic mix for anyone with any mental health issue,” he said.
But Davy believes it doesn’t have to be this way.
“If someone suffers from sleep problems, then they shouldn’t be put on a 4am start. Employers need to stop simply paying lip service to mental health and actually support their workers when it counts. Where I work at Musgrave, they’re good about mental health on paper but when I ask to come in late because I couldn’t sleep, they don’t care.”
“The long-hours working culture in our sector needs to end too,” Davy added. “Working 80 hour weeks isn’t good for anyone, whether we’re talking about mental or physical health.”
Davy, who has been a Unite member for more than a decade and a shop steward since 2013, believes the union must do more to place mental health at the top of its agenda.
“We need to help union shop stewards with mental health training. Reps are there on the frontlines dealing with our members who are struggling to get help. We can refer them to their GP but what do we do afterwards? People need support and they’re not getting it.”
Above all, Davy believes we all need to keep talking about mental health.
“I know more than anyone how difficult it can be to talk about mental health. I kept things bottled up for so long without even realising it – when I finally started talking there was this immense sense of relief. I urge anyone who is suffering from mental health issues to open up about it and get help. If you don’t help yourself, no one else will.”
Davy said that talking about mental health with family, friends and colleagues should go hand-in-hand with talking about mental health in the public arena.
“The only way we’ll end the stigma is through more action and talking about it publicly. The only way that we’ll get employers to take mental health seriously is if we keep hounding them about it and we don’t stop.”
Davy points to the Equality Commission’s mental health charter, which he has lobbied his employer to sign up to and so commit itself to a mentally healthy workplace – so far they’ve refused, but Davy says he will keep trying.
“It’s going to be a long drawn out fight to make mental health a priority in workplaces across the UK, and if I’m being honest, I’m not particularly optimistic. But until I shuffle off this mortal coil, I will do whatever I can. We cannot give up on this.”
If you have a mental health issue and need urgent help, find out more on MIND’s website here.
The Mental Health Foundation, which has spearheaded Mental Health Awareness Week this week (May 13-19) has additional mental health resources here.