From The North: How can we help our mental health during the most difficult times in life?

In this latest episode of From the North we ask how can we help our mental health during the most difficult times in life?

A warning, this podcast touches on a number of issues from addiction and terminal illness to bereavement, bullying and being open about our sexuality.

Over the course of May Granada Reports presenters Lucy Meacock and Gamal Fahnbulleh spoke to five incredible people about their mental health.

Each person has been through some kind of adversity in their life but has come through the other side.

Now, they are offering a message of hope to others who may have been affected by similar issues.

Cathy Doyle says she will "always be in recovery" from her addiction. Credit: ITV Granada
  • Cathy Doyle

Cathy Doyle, from Liverpool, first tried heroin when she was 15 to escape her traumatic childhood.

In her later teenage years, she was prescribed methadone which is a drug used to help people get off of heroin.

After decades and during the COVID lockdown, Cathy weened herself off methadone and was completely drug free.

Cathy says she would tell her younger self: "I would say I'm proud of you, keep going and never give up.

"I'm proud of who she became. No matter what life threw at her, she never gave in. I'm so grateful that I'm still alive."

When asked what advice she would give to current addicts, she said: "Never lose hope, never give on yourself.

"Just be true to yourself, you can achieve anything you want. Just reach out.

"I'm not special, I'm just human. It doesn't make me some strong superwoman. I've got the tools now to be able to pass onto other people and that's what I intend to do."

Tony Collier says people should focus on "the light" and try to "avoid the dark place". Credit: ITV Granada
  • Tony Collier

Tony Collier, from Altrincham, was told he had incurable prostate cancer in 2017. His initial prognosis was that he had at worst two years to live.

Six years later, Tony's cancer is stable. He has cited his resilience as part of his new outlook on life.

When asked what advice he would give to people struggling with a terminal illness diagnosis, Tony said, "just think on the positive side. It's not going to cure cancer but it will help you live a better life.

"Focus on the good things in life and try not to focus on the negative things.

"You need to try and avoid the dark place. If you're going through any form of adversity in life, just pull on that strength, that resilience.

"Because somewhere deep down there is that strength that we can call on when we need it most."

Since moving to Manchester, Hadisa says she feels a lot more accepted by the people of the UK. Credit: ITV Granada
  • Hadisa Hussain Afzaly

A young woman from Afghanistan who was born with a severe facial deformity says she now feels accepted by the people of Manchester for her appearance.

Hadisa Hussain Afzaly, 26, was born in Kabul in 1997 when the Taliban first ruled Afghanistan.

She was rejected by some members of her family for the way she looked.

She said: "Manchester has become my home. I'm really loving it. It's a city of literature. I always meet the most wonderful people here.

"In this country, I do feel accepted. And even if I don't, I know what my rights are and if I feel someone treating me really bad, I know what I'm doing now."

When asked her advice on what someone should do if they are currently bullying someone, Hadisa said, "when someone bullies someone else, it's sometimes an issue they're having in life. They're so much hate in the world, we don't need more.

"We need to create love and peace for people to live as happy and content as they can."

Figen Murray has chosen to forgive Salman Abedi, the terrorist who killed her son Martyn Hett. Credit: ITV Granada
  • Figen Murray

A mother who lost her son in the Manchester Arena terror attack says she forgives suicide bomber Salman Abedi to "protect her soul".

Figen Murray's son, Martyn Hett, 29, died in the explosion on 22 May 2017.

Asked what advice she would give to someone who may be struggling to forgive, Figen said: "My advice would be search your soul. Forgiveness is not condoning what the other person did.

"It's about you protecting your soul from badness."

Nathaniel Hall contracted HIV when he was 16. Credit: ITV Granada
  • Nathaniel Hall

It's A Sin Actor Nathaniel Hall says he wishes he was more open about his HIV diagnosis as it now doesn't affect his life "that much".

Nathaniel, from Stockport, was told he had HIV when he was just 16 after contracting it from the first man he ever had sex with.

The now-36-year-old kept his diagnosis secret from his family for 15 years until he chose to write a play about having HIV.

When asked what advice he would give someone who is at risk, or just received a positive diagnosis, Nathaniel said: "HIV is totally treatable. I take one tablet a day, it doesn't impact my life that much.

"I go to the doctor's once every six months and I'm screened. If there's anything wrong with me, we find out really early.

"That doesn't meant to say the psychological impact isn't huge. Know that people are accepting and want to help and support you.

"Maybe take that little step towards openness and truly being yourself."

What were the key takeaways from the interviews?

Lucy and Gamal shared some of the common themes and advice from the series of interviews:

  • Keeping things secret doesn't always help, find the courage to talk to someone about it

  • You have an incredible capacity for resilience. Things do get better

  • Get out in nature to take yourself out of the situation you are in

  • Be kind to yourself to recognise the challenges you are facing

  • You are never alone

Worried about mental health?


For practical, confidential suicide prevention help and advice you can contact PAPYRUS HOPELINE247 on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039967 or email

Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK. PAPYRUS aims to reduce the number of young people who take their own lives by breaking down the stigma around suicide and equipping people with the skills to recognise and respond to suicidal behaviour.

HOPELINE247 is the charity’s confidential 24 hour helpline service providing practical advice and support to young people with thoughts of suicide and anyone concerned about a young person who may have thoughts of suicide.

HOPELINE247 is staffed by trained professionals, offering a telephone, text and email service.

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CALM, or the Campaign Against Living Miserably, runs a free and confidential helpline and webchat – open from 5pm to midnight every day, for anyone who needs to talk about life’s problems.

It also supports those bereaved by suicide, through the Support After Suicide Partnership (SASP).

  • Phone their helpline: 0800 585858 (Daily, 5pm to midnight)

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James’ Place

Suicide prevention centre in Liverpool offering life-saving support to men in suicidal crisis.

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Mind is a mental health charity which promotes the views and needs of people with mental health issues.

It provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem, and campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.

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Samaritans is an organisation offering confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

  • Phone 116 123 (a free 24 hour helpline)

  • Email:

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YoungMinds is a resource with information on child and adolescent mental health, but also offers services for parents and professionals.

It is the UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people's mental health, and wants to make sure all young people can get the mental health support they need, when they need it

  • YoungMinds Textline - Text YM to 85258

  • Phone Parents' helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am - 4pm)

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