I feel extremely fortunate to have met Jack; one of the most open and charismatic people I have ever come across.
Jack has attempted suicide three times, at least one of which he blames on anti-depressants.
“SSRIs in particular” he says “send me from the most extreme highs to being completely and utterly suicidal”.
I asked him if he thinks anti-depressants are overprescribed these days.
“Definitely; on such a big scale. But it’s not the fault of the NHS because they’re under so much pressure. Appointment times are getting smaller, they’re facing cuts everywhere and so it’s much easier to prescribe Prozac or whatever than providing more time consuming, talking based approaches like CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)”.
Jack’s main philosophy on happiness is that everything is a choice.
“We’re not just at the mercy of what happens to us, we cannot change the hand we’ve been dealt, but we can change how we see it.”
According to Jack, we all share the same potential to be happy, yet he pointed out that not everyone realises that potential.
“You just have to choose to be happy. In the same way a diabetic has a problem processing sugar, a person with depression has a problem processing negativity”.
He went on to say how “It’s all about actively searching for the bright side in any situation, no matter how small it may be, it’s always there and you have to find the silver linings for yourself in order to be happy”.
Jack is now off anti-depressants and told me that he is immeasurably happier for it. After all, the brain is a delicate thing. He also realises the importance of understanding that everybody’s brain chemistry is different and so will respond differently to any given treatment. He for example did not find CBT useful and speculated that “once you know a little bit about psychology and how it all works, it tends not to work so well”.
Things are looking up for Jack. He now has a girlfriend, has become ‘The Big Issue’s’ 2nd most productive seller and is currently taking a degree at the open university. He now feels “a reason to get up in the morning”.
Jack said that being open to the positives amid so much ugliness has meant that he has been able to stick around for long enough for his situation to improve. If he had not bothered to look for what little good he had in his life at the worst of times, Jack believes that his fourth suicide attempt would have been successful as an unsuccessful end to his pursuit of happiness.
Jack is happy, “very much so”. I believe him.