My experience with anxiety and PTSD from suicide bereavement

My name is Damien and I’ve been working with ISG as a Design Manager for 2.5 years. I have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety for several years now, and I manage my symptoms both through personal methods and also thanks to the support I received from my workplace, which I originally didn’t know existed.

Trigger warning: Contains details about suicide and bereavement


My experience with anxiety and PTSD originated from a traumatic experience in 2021, when my brother died by suicide. I received a call from my mother as she was worried about my brother Westley (aged 35 at the time) and she had not heard from him for a couple of days. This wasn’t too unusual for him as he liked his own space. Now having children myself, I understand how you can get a “parental intuition” when something is wrong. My brother and I were best friends, he was my idol and we went through so much as we grew up together.

When we went to my brother’s house and received no response from him, we had no choice but to kick the door down. It was at this point that my life changed forever. It’s hard to explain or to put into words how I felt in this moment; all that I knew was that my life would never be the same again. The experience dramatically affected my mental health, sometimes leaving me with suicidal thoughts. I wasn’t sure how I could live like this, with the traumatic images in my mind of the event that day.

Daily anxiety grew and grew, and I frequently experienced negative and spiralling thoughts, asking myself "why" and "what if" and telling myself that "I should have been there."

– Damien

At the time of my brother’s death, I had just started a career at ISG, and my career and work being something I take the utmost pride in, I felt I most certainly did not want the experience to affect me at work. At this point, I believe I was still in shock. To manage my symptoms, I was taking antidepressants, which I subsequently had to stop taking as they weren’t benefiting me at that time. Many areas of my life became difficult, my relationship with my future wife was affected and my children missed spending time with me. I used to be a fun-loving and energetic person, but I had become a shadow of my former self.

As my brother’s funeral date passed and life continued, anxiety began to worsen for me. I would be awake through the night, most nights getting only two hours or so of sleep. I would wake up with such a deep gut feeling in my stomach, to the point where I felt sick. Anxiety was beginning to crush me. At work, horrible thoughts continued to flood my brain. I had confided in a couple of people in my workplace as I wanted people to understand that I wasn’t performing at work in my usual way due to my mental health. One friend pulled me to the side and asked how I was, and I broke down in tears. My friend advised me to see the doctors when I got home, and taking his advice I booked an appointment, but with waiting lists long for alternative therapies or options to antidepressants, I left the appointment feeling even more lost and hopeless. I was officially at my lowest point.

Thankfully, a friend and colleague had contacted HR at work to advise how worried they were about me. They encouraged me to prioritise myself and my mental health, and I ended up taking the time off work for a fortnight. During my time off, I was contacted by work to be advised that I had private health care through my employment, which covers mental and physical health. I realised that getting this support could be a turning point for me.

"The help I received from work helped me to get a diagnosis of PTSD and provided me access to further therapy and support."

– Damien

Things started to look up for me as I accessed mental health care. I started to receive therapy for my PTSD and anxiety and for the first time in a while, I felt a little bit of happiness. It felt amazing to know someone cares enough to want to support me.

I progressed with my cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Thanks to the tools I learnt in these sessions, I’m doing much better, and I’m really grateful to my employer, ISG, for providing me with access to these therapies. Many people think that employers do not want to help, but I urge people to reach out as you might be surprised by what your workplace can do and offer. My employer took my mental health problems seriously and ultimately helped me to get better.

I’m now keen to help other people, and ISG kindly put me through my Mental Health First Aider course, so I can begin to learn more about mental health and how to help other colleagues. I have since helped over five people in confidence, who have confided in me. I have gotten stuck into fundraising for charities, including Mental Health UK, which has helped me to channel my experience into a positive outlet. I also recently took part in ISG’s challenge to raise funds for Suicide Prevention Day, and I continue to carry out presentations at work about my experience and story, in a bid to help other people to understand more about anxiety and PTSD.

The change I see in myself is, well, unbelievable.

We all feel worried, tense or fearful sometimes. But for people living with anxiety disorders, this level of worry might consume most of their time, or leave them with uncomfortable symptoms. Learn about anxiety disorders and the support available.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often makes people re-live a traumatic event, which causes distress and difficulty in your day-to-day life. It’s caused by experiencing a serious, traumatic or frightening experiences such as an assault, accident or natural disaster. Find out more about PTSD.

Find out more about what it means to experience suicidal thoughts and what to do if you need support for yourself or someone you care about. If you’ve lost someone to suicide, our information on grief and bereavement provides resources and tools on how to navigate feelings of loss.

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