Regular visitors to Manchester might recognise Dave, who has sold Big Issue North in the city centre for a number of years. However, Dave’s been taking time off since Christmas with some health concerns, and has just come back vending this spring.
Selling the magazine on the streets all day can leave vendors feeling stressed, and the complexities of their lives – managing money worries, housing concerns and more –increases the chance of both physical and mental health concerns. At the end of 2017, things had got on top of Dave.
Dave said: “During the last 12 months I have been under a lot of pressure. I’ve had some financial problems and a lot of health problems, things like chest infections, which kept me off work and added to the stress.
“All of this led to me having a nervous breakdown just before Christmas. I don’t remember much about the actual breakdown. I was at home when it happened. A friend of mine called the police because I was a danger to myself. I came close to committing suicide.”
Like many people, especially men, Dave was reluctant to show that he was struggling with his mental health.
He said: “I knew that my mental health was deteriorating but I didn’t let it show. A lot of my customers didn’t realise what kind of stress I was under. People don’t see it, what’s inside, especially if you come across like I do as all happy and outgoing. I tried to cover it up and not show people by smiling all the time but inside it was killing me.”
Dave’s recovery from his breakdown was slow, and he kept in touch with our staff throughout. Our staff work with vendors to make sure they are able to access health and wellbeing support – we did so 61 times between January and March this year – and acting as a friendly face and listening ear to vendors.
“I’m getting professional counselling. I have had some very good support from Big Issue North. It was important for me to know that I could come back and sell again when I recovered, to see the people who know me from selling the magazine.
“I am 100 per cent pleased to be back selling the magazine properly, it’s been a couple of difficult years but I have had such great support from a lot of people. It feels like ‘Manchester loves you’.
“I am hoping that my life will turn around. I feel like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. My plan is to get that caravan that I have always wanted and to retire to North Wales in the next couple of years.”
As he continues to recover and manage his mental health, Dave knows that without his regular customers, things could be much worse.
“Life has been an uphill struggle ever since I was a child. But I feel that I have a family now, not just in Big Issue North but in the broader circle of my customers who have all helped me out over the years.
“I want to say a special thank you to all the people who have been helping me. Without all that support I would never got through another year.”
If you would like to contribute to Big Issue North’s work, supporting vendors like Dave, please make a donation to our Trust today.