Following his own battles with depression, boxer Lee McAllister insists the first step to recovery is accepting there is a problem – and talking about it.
The 36-year-old has opened up on his depression and previous suicidal thoughts in the hope of raising awareness of mental health issues.
Despite having the world at his feet with a successful boxing career, Lee suffered a breakdown in 2007 just weeks before a world title fight and sank into “dark places”.
He admits to hiding behind the persona of the happy-go-lucky champion boxer, but inside he was hurting.
Only he was scared to let anyone know.
He said: “It’s okay not to be okay.
“Just remember there are people suffering from depression everywhere.
“You cannot just take people at face value because a lot of people behind the scenes are suffering from depression.
“Look at Jim Carrey and Robin Williams, funny men but riddled with depression.
“These guys put on an alter ego the same as myself.
“I put on that everything is fine and I am always the one laughing and joking.
“But sometimes that is not me, because I put on the front and play the game as to who people think I would be.
“I am almost playing to the crowd.
“In boxing I am an entertainer so I entertain.
“People just look at me and see Lee, the Happy Larry, but deep down it can be the worst possible feeling with depression.”
Lee has his depression under control, but accepts it is still lurking in the background, waiting to return.
He recently opened the Assassin Health and Fitness Village in Balgownie and has been helping people who suffer with depression and mental health issues.
On Saturday June 15 he will headline a charity boxing bill in Livingston, Punching the Stigma – Fighting for Mental Health.
He said: “It is swept under the carpet but the number of people recovering from depression, that have depression or could have it is so high.
“It affects all walks of life.
“Depression is everywhere and the more it is highlighted and accepted in society the quicker people can feel better about themselves and open to speak about it.
“In the last couple of years there has been a lot more awareness of mental health issues.
“It is not enough to just put up posters or phone numbers as you need to be encouraging people to actually talk to you.
“The fliers don’t mean anything unless people feel they can trust you enough to talk to you and get it off your chest.
“They can here (Assassin Health and Fitness Village), as we accept them for who they are.
“We are building a wee community here and it is helping people.
“I work with people struggling with depression, post-traumatic stress and bad anxieties.
“Everyone is welcome and I am here to give something back.”
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Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in Britain.
There were almost 6,000 deaths by suicide in Britain in 2017. That figure means there is one death by suicide every two hours – and many more people are thought to attempt suicide.
Lee has suffered the heartache of a close friend taking his own life.
The boxer has spoken out about his own battle with depression and suicidal thoughts because he feels it is a dialogue that must be opened up.
He said: “There has been silence about depression as people hid it – but they don’t have to.
“My best pal killed himself a year and a half ago and I found him.
“Another pal died two days later and another a week before.
“I lost three of my good friends in the space of a fortnight.
“Over the years I have lost a lot of people to suicide, cancer, heart attacks.
“It is so painful but the world goes on.
“I lost my mum at 55 through cancer. A woman who was fit her whole life and never did any harm to anyone.
“To be taken from us at 55 years of age so suddenly was horrible.
“It was another horrible, horrible time for me.
“The main thing that got me over depression was talking about it.
“The more people I spoke to, the more weight was taken off my shoulders.
“That is the way I am today, if I am feeling down or depressed I will talk to people.”