Mental health: ethnic minority experiences

Anton - Interview 13

Age at interview: 64
Age at diagnosis: 45

Brief outline: Anton, 64, is an Asian man who came from Sri Lanka to the UK in 1962. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder aged 45 and was given various medicines but none worked. Now he is not receiving any treatment' he was told by doctors they had "given up" on him.

Background: Auditor, single. Ethnic background/nationality: Sri Lankan.

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Anton, a 64 year old single Sri Lankan man, came to the UK aged 15. He lives with and cares for his mother, who has dementia. One day, in his mid 40s, he woke up with what he thought was 'flu' he found it difficult to cope at work, to dress, wash, and do housework. This was unusual for Anton who had always been healthy and rarely visited the doctor. The GP told him it was probably a virus. Eventually the doctor diagnosed depression and gave him some tablets (Mianserine) but Anton was afraid he might get hooked on them. A clergyman friend advised Anton not to take the medication, but to “try and fight it” - Anton says this was bad advice. Anton says he didn't really believe he had depression, he thought it was a virus. 

After seven years of a pattern of going “through hell” for three months, then having manic phases of “dashing around”, Anton found it more and more difficult to fight. His GP was not very friendly or helpful so he went to see his mum's GP who prescribed Prozac and Endronax. They didn't work so she referred him to a psychiatrist. Anton saw many different psychiatrists and they were all puzzled and their diagnoses varied. When medication didn't work, they suggested talking therapy. Anton doubted it would help and it didn't. Eventually Anton was told, “We've given up” and was discharged by the psychiatrist. 

Anton lives in hope that someone will introduce a medicine that will work for him. Anton has also tried taking Omega 3 fish oil, acupuncture, homeopathy, Chinese medicine, and Qi Gong, but they were all unsuccessful. He wanted to try electro convulsive therapy (ECT) but it was refused because of his coronary heart disease. 

Anton thinks his depression may be related to his perfectionist attitude and get up and go nature. He read somewhere that his brain is like an electrical circuit which he has overloaded and blown the fuse. At his lowest point, Anton tried to commit suicide twice because he felt he had nothing to live for after he had to sell his house and take casual part-time work. He lied to the psychiatrist about his feelings because he didn't want to be sectioned. 

Anton says his family don't understand his illness because physically he looks OK. People tell him, “Pull yourself together”. He says people have a common notion of depression, and many people think they've been depressed, although they haven't. He thinks there should be more education for the family. He says that something good has come out of his illness, he knows how to deal with human relations' Anton says he now asks people with depression, “Is there something I can do for you?” rather than lecturing them.

When Anton was planning his third suicide attempt, he read a story in a Christian magazine that he thought was the Lord telling him he still has a purpose in life. Since then, Anton does voluntary work: he's on the Commission for Involvement of a Public Patient Forum and the Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatry and he's a resident director of the local Housing Association.


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