Page last updated at 00:00 GMT, Sunday, 28 March 2010

'Therapy helped my mind and my work'

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Mark Young
Mark made about 500 cold calls a week

Three years ago Mark Young was under severe pressure.

His father had been seriously ill, he and his wife were sleep deprived with two small children and he had a demanding job, which necessitated him making 500 cold-calls a week.

As the relentless pressure built the cracks started to show and Mark, 39, started having debilitating panic attacks.

"I work in extremes and my switch either used to be on or off," he said.

High pressure

"I was the sole earner in our house. I was working like stink, exercising like mad, trying to be a great dad and husband and all things to all clients and there was not much left in the pot.

"When we were with some friends I had a panic attack. I couldn't think straight. I was being sick and shaking.

There is no question it saved my life
Mark Young

"Everything completely unravelled from that moment on."

Mark's GP suggested anti-depressants, but he was reluctant to take them as he did not feel depressed.

Psychotherapy was not a success and then a friend of the family suggested he had cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT is a talking treatment with a practical approach to problem-solving. It aims to change the patterns of thinking or behaviour that are behind people's problems so they can then change the way they feel.

Within a matter of weeks Mark, from Wiltshire, was on the road to recovery and decided to use his new found CBT skills to change his behaviour at work, treating people more empathetically rather than simply going for the "hard sell".

New approaches

He said: "I work for other companies to help get them new clients.

"The way I had to do that was to make lots of cold-calls to lots of marketing directors.

"Cold-calling is something I adore and I have been doing it for about 17 years. I was making between 500-600 calls a week.

Rhiannon Sargent
Rhiannon helped Mark work more efficiently

"A lot of emails and calls will be sell, sell, sell and it will all be about the company that wants to sell its product.

"The way I do it now is by acknowledging that we want to sell them something, but telling them it's a good deal and asking if they want to talk about it.

"People say they like the emails."

Mark's CBT coach Rhiannon Sargent, who runs her own private practice, said that changing the way he worked had been vital.

"Having reached somewhere with his day-to-day panic attacks, I wanted to hear more about his work.

"One of the things I thought exacerbated his panic attacks was the way his job was designed. He would get emails and calls without the time to interpret them.

"He now works a lot harder but a lot better and is more relaxed. He has the time to look at the feedback and is listening better."

Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said: "Talking therapies can be an absolute lifeline for people experiencing mental distress.

"However, there is no one-size-fits-all therapy and, as with medication, people sometimes need to try a few alternatives to find the one that's most helpful for them whether that's CBT, counselling, group therapy or psychotherapy.

"All of the therapies available use different techniques that some people will respond to, and others won't, so having a range of options available is the only way to ensure people get the most out of their treatment."

Therapy catalyst

Mark said the changes had made a big difference.

"Within three months of working with Rhiannon, I had doubled the business.

"Three years down the line, she is very much part of what I am doing.

"I still have anxieties, but now I have the tools to deal with it.

"There is no question CBT saved my life, because I did have suicidal feelings.

"I will never be able to thank Rhiannon enough for what she has done."

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