'I planned my own suicide' - restaurateur opens up on mental health battle

Whittlesey restaurateur on mental health war

Chris Newman, owner of Homme Nouveau in Whittlesey, said he has been attending mental health therapy sessions since 2013. - Credit: Facebook/Homme Nouveau

It’s not been an easy ride for one Fenland restaurateur over the last few years, but it’s a battle he feels he is starting to conquer. 

“I was diagnosed with depression at the end of the first lockdown last year,” Chris Newman, owner of Homme Nouveau in Whittlesey, said.  

“I wanted to be an advocate for people to know it was okay, to feel confident and not ashamed in talking about mental health issues, particularly men.” 

Whittlesey restaurateur on mental health war

Chris Newman (left), believes he is mentally in a better place after at one point, he said he planned his own suicide. - Credit: Facebook/Homme Nouveau

After a relationship breakdown in 2013, Chris has since been attending therapy sessions, which have improved his state of mind. 

Because of that, he is aiming to encourage more people in a similar position to come forward through posting on his business’ social media pages. 

“There is still a huge stigma with men, so I thought the best way to address it was to tell the world,” Chris said. 

“Whittlesey is quite a small town and there are some people that troll certain things. I was expecting trolling here and there, but I didn’t get anything, and every comment I got was 100pc positive. 

Most Read

“A couple of complete strangers messaged me to say I have encouraged them to talk about it, so that was part of the aim.” 

Life could well have been different for Chris, who said was at the point of breakdown following what he believes was a case of blind love. 

“I was with someone that I was completely in love with. However, in my therapy sessions since, I discovered I was a victim of mental abuse and that triggered my initial mental health problems,” he admitted. 

Homme Nouveau restaurant in Whittlesey

Outside the Homme Nouveau restaurant in Whittlesey, which remains closed due to the national Covid-19 lockdown. - Credit: Facebook/Homme Nouveau

“I got to a point where I planned my own suicide. Death scares me, but it’s the unbearable pressure in your mind that you cannot escape from.” 

Since that relationship eight years ago, Chris now has a five-year-old daughter which has made him feel happier, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

However, lockdown has not given him any favours both on a personal and business scale. 

“It was not until last year in lockdown and my business had only been open for five months; it was the stress of not knowing what support was there,” he said. 

“It led me on a downward spiral and I spoke to my therapist and I was given anti-depressants. I thought Covid was the point I needed to do more; talking was not quite enough for me.” 

Over the years, Chris said he does not see a therapist as often, where sessions are “like an MOT”. 

Whittlesey restaurateur on Covid-19 support

Chris Newman (pictured) has said the government needs to do more to keep the hospitality sector alive during the Covid-19 pandemic. - Credit: Facebook/Homme Nouveau

It’s not just his own war with mental health that he is concerned about, though. 

“Mental health is not just about being sad and what frustrates me is we hear some without mental health issues say ‘there is always tomorrow’,” Chris said. 

“Depression is not something you can switch on and off and people need to understand it more. That’s why people don’t talk about it.  

“Especially with the pandemic, I believe it has worsened mental health issues by a long shot.” 

Chris, who lives alone, has recently started a new relationship and keeps in touch with his daughter during the latest lockdown. 

He has come far from the times he isolated himself away from others in the second shutdown, but has also learned key tips along the way. 

“You have to be able to help yourself and until you realise you need help, people cannot force you,” he said. 

“You might be diagnosed with other mental illnesses, but unless you are at that point to accept help, it is tough to deal with.” 

Talking to a therapist has helped Chris unload any concerns he struggles with. 

One issue he continues to suffer from is when he can reopen his restaurant to the public, but although that is uncertain, Chris believes there is nothing better than speaking out. 

“It is stressful being a business owner because you are not just responsible for your business, but also for your staff because they rely on you,” he added. 

“I think business owners, especially restaurants, want consistency; there is no point opening and shutting for two months on and off.   

“My therapist said if you break your leg, you will need two crutches to keep you balanced, so for me, therapy is one crutch and medication is the other. Without one of those, the risk of falling over is greater.”