Finding meaning again: John's story

August 2022

After an operation that went wrong, John felt depressed and increasingly isolated. But reaching out for support with our over-65s service helped him learn coping strategies, find meaningful contact and enjoy life again

I had an operation for prostate cancer that went wrong back in 2018 and I felt very down and depressed afterwards. I went to see my GP, who referred me to a mental health worker at the surgery, and they put me in touch with West Sussex Mind.

I had been treated in the past for depression and had been on medication. Over time, I guess I had learned to live with how I was feeling. But after the operation, I started to head downwards again and I recognised that I was depressed. I lacked motivation and I felt extremely isolated. I live alone and, as my depression progressed, so I went out less and had less interaction with the outside world. Every day became quite a miserable experience and I recognised that I needed to do something.

I spoke to the manager at West Sussex Mind in Bognor for its over-65s service, Communities in Mind. She talked to me about how I was feeling and explained what West Sussex Mind could offer in terms of support, development and social activities. I’ve had consistent contact with West Sussex Mind since then. I go to the monthly art group, I’ve been on walks in Hotham Park, I’ve been part of the film club. And I often attend the online social activity group for a chat and the quiz.

I get a lot from the art club. The value of creating art is that are concentrating on one activity and it naturally draws you in to occupy all your senses. You are constantly anticipating how you are going to develop your drawing or painting and it is very stimulating. It also provides a real break from dwelling on your problems and stops you going down diversionary rabbit holes. It crystallises your thoughts, so that afterwards you can almost start afresh.

So the art group has had a very positive impact on me, because I’m quite a creative person. I’m also a perfectionist, which can mean that I procrastinate. I have trouble starting and finishing tasks and then they mount up and become overwhelming. But having activities to go to with West Sussex Mind, like the art club, meant that I felt like I was being productive and it gave me structure. While I was doing the activity, I felt that everything else – including the things that were troubling me – were out of my mind. I was free of them. That’s not to say that when I got home, I felt “cured”, but in the long term it created an improvement. And it gave me the opportunity to meet new people, have interesting conversations and enjoy social interaction.

I’m not totally fixed, but I’m not broken either. Now I’m more able to cope with the rough and the smooth and enjoy moments of life again


Before I reached out for support, my thoughts dwelled on ending it all, on suicide. I felt there was no point in carrying on, I have no dependents, I felt it wouldn’t make much difference if I wasn’t here anymore. So the depth of my despair and dissatisfaction with life inevitably led me to think about the ultimate solution.

I would say to others that if they are struggling with depression, they should go ahead and reach out for support. It has to be worth a try, because the alternative is a slippery slope that ends in different places for different people. Reaching out for help at least gives you the potential to access a better quality of life again, which is what I feel I have now.

I’ve also learned more about my mental health and how to manage it better. West Sussex Mind’s group sessions at the Laburnum Centre in Bognor have given me some useful tools to help banish my depressive thoughts. Now I have some tools and techniques that can lessen the impact of those thoughts and help me cope better with everyday life. Just having more information about your mental health and the impact it can have on other people, for example, is empowering and can help you to cope better. I also have weekly phone calls from befrienders at West Sussex Mind and this gives me structure and ongoing social contact and support.

West Sussex Mind has signposted me to other services and agencies who have helped. For example, I went along to meetings of Men’s Sheds in Bognor. I’ve had practical assistance from social prescribers in the community, who have helped me to deal with problems with my electricity and TV licensing, for example. And I’ve had help from Hourglass charity, whose staff call me on a regular basis and help me prepare for my hospital meetings about my treatment for prostate cancer. This has been invaluable.

I have had lots of support from a range of sources and it has helped so much and I really appreciate it. I’m not totally fixed, but I’m not broken either. Now I’m more able to cope with the rough and the smooth and enjoy moments of life again.