Dr Phil Hammond’s father committed suicide when he was 7, but he was told it was a ‘heart attack’ and he only got to learn about the real reason – depression –  much later in his 30’s.

Dr Phil names his own depression in his article. He is also 51… and so now he’s one of us. HURRAH!

Last Sunday I was sat talking with a friend whose mother died in a road accident (not suicide) when she was 7. We were having a heart to heart, and like Dr Phil she said that she went into ‘I can cope’ mode and later became a doctor. And the more we talked, the more I realised I went into ‘I can cope’ mode too as a youngster, actually from birth. My grandfather (mother’s father) committed suicide 10 years before I was born, and somehow I seemed to get the urgent message to stay alive at all costs, as if from my mother’s milk. Anyway, I grew up a generally very cheery, active and much loved lad, and (Surprise! Surprise!) later became a doctor too.

Only by then my older brother had died in a road accident – and it could have been suicide too. However, I somehow managed to stick with my ‘I can cope’ mode in adult life, maybe not surprisingly when I think about it now, because the opposite ‘I can’t cope’ mode was such an unsafe and not-permitted way of storytelling in my family. Of course I felt miserable and got depressed too along the way, but I have been lucky with being much loved thoughout my life, and funnily enough becoming a GP doctor also helped.

Like Dr Phil says, my mother and father not talking about it “may well have done me a favour” in the long run, because it has only been in my middle years that I’ve felt ready and able to explore my ‘I can’t cope’ mode as well as the familiar ‘I can cope’ mode. To begin with my ‘I can’t cope’ mode felt very scary, naturally because it was the not-permitted storytelling style in my family, but over time I’ve learned to play with it, enter the shadows and then leave them, in ways that are generally safe.

And each time I tell this story, I am aware it changes, and often for the better. For instance, I’ve found that with growing awareness can come more energy not less, more happiness, and less misery… at least… so far so good!

You can also pick up and support Dr Phil’s fight to save the NHS (where he got sacked as a GP for his troubles) here:


and I am much looking forward to MB50 following and getting more gems from him in 2014 so we can continue to spread the word: especially Dr Phil’s advice for ‘Staying Alive’ in the NHS !