Mental health in Manchester: businessman speaks about crisis and reluctance to seek help while at university

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Lee Chambers has shared his story as ManchesterWorld and NationalWorld use exclusive research to shine a light on the city-region’s hidden mental health pandemic.

A business psychologist has spoken about having a mental health crisis as a student in Manchester.

Lee Chambers discussed how his mental health got so bad that he locked himself in his dormitory and ended up being taken home when he was just 20 years ago.

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Lee spoke about his experiences as research exclusively shared with ManchesterWorld through our sister title NationalWorld showed many Greater Manchester residents are suffering in silence with their mental health and are reluctant to seek help.

Lee also discussed how tough he found it admitting he needed help and talked about some of the extra barriers black people face when suffering from mental illness.

‘I was being a young male, not wanting to admit that I needed help’

Lee, who is now a business psychologist and wellbeing consultant, was just 20 and a university student in Manchester when he experienced a mental health crisis.

The 36-year-old father-of-two said: “It got so serious I ended up locking myself in my university dorm for two weeks and being extracted by security and being taken home.”

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Lee Chambers has been speaking about his mental health struggles and why it can be hard to get helpLee Chambers has been speaking about his mental health struggles and why it can be hard to get help
Lee Chambers has been speaking about his mental health struggles and why it can be hard to get help | Lee Chambers

But he said at the time he felt he couldn’t ask for therapy, wanting instead to work his way through it all on his own.

“I was being a young male, not wanting to admit that I needed help and support.”

Has Lee struggled with his mental health since that crisis?

Lee later had more “dark days” when, in 2014, a problem with his immune system left him unable to walk for 11 months.

He struggled again when the coronavirus pandemic hit just as he had started his business, Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing, and had to juggle work with home-schooling.

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Lee said as someone trained in psychology, he had often felt he had to “fix” himself.

What advice does Lee give to people in similar situations?

Lee finally decided to get therapy, 15 years after his first mental health crisis, and urged others not to be discouraged from going to seek help.

He said: “To people who are struggling, I say, don’t wait 15 years like me. Just take that step.”

Lee said it was often particularly hard for black people to seek help.

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This was borne out in the national survey analysed by ManchesterWorld which found 43% of black respondents did not realise depression and anxiety were illnesses, a rate much higher than the 22% of white people who were unaware of this.

Lee said: “Black people struggling with their mental health are more likely to end up in trouble with the police, they are more likely to be stigmatised.

“There are older people in the community who don’t recognise mental health as a thing, they still see it as people being crazy, people being possessed or people losing their mind.”

Lee said there were too few black therapists and there also needed to be more young black role models who were open about their emotional vulnerabilities.

He said: “Asking for help, assistance or support is actually a strong thing to do. It shows a level of courage and bravery, not the other way around.”

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