Wigan barber writes book about mental health battle

He hopes telling his story will inspire other people.

Monday, 26th July 2021, 9:59 am
Updated Monday, 26th July 2021, 10:02 am

Josh Gaskell penned Puzzle Pieces after his therapist suggested it might be a good idea for him to start writing down some of the experiences he had struggled with over the years.

About three-quarters of the way through this process it was then decided that the 26-year-old from Winstanley should think about completing the manuscript and then looking to get it on the shelves.

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Josh Gaskell with his book Puzzle Pieces

He said writing parts of the book were extremely difficult, but hopes opening up about suffering from depression and anxiety, as well as the other challenges he has faced over the years, will prove helpful to people going through similar battles.

Josh said: “During the most recent lockdown I had to close my business and I was stuck at home. I’ve always struggled with mental health so I went back to therapy.

“A lot had happened for me and my therapist said writing might be a good way of giving me some closure.

“I started to write and when I got about three-quarters of the way through she said my story could be used to help other people. It became a case of doing this as a book and publishing it, and now here we are.

“It didn’t take me as long to write as I thought but I did become a little bit obsessed. I would be up at 1am writing, just going with the emotions.”

Josh started penning Puzzle Pieces, which takes its title from his belief that all his experiences come together to complete the picture of who he is, like a jigsaw puzzle, around the end of March and had finished the book about three months later.

“The book starts with school bullying and goes into sexuality struggles, depression, anxiety, suicide attempts and self-harming. It goes into the Manchester Arena concert because I was one of the lucky ones who wasn’t injured but I had experiences of survivor’s guilt and had to deal with that quite a lot,” he said.

“At first it was quite easy to write, but there were times during the process which were difficult to talk about. I just kept thinking about who it could help.

“There were also personal and private things which I thought I should leave out but then I thought it could help people by me opening up.

“Two people have already messaged me to say they feel they can now speak about things because I’ve spoken.

“When I first clicked on release I wondered what I had done, but that is quite nice.”

Josh has been supported through the writing of the book by his husband Michael, who he married last October after their wedding was twice postponed due to Covid-19,

He has also been helped on his tough journey by his family of parents Nigel and Michaela and older brothers Adam and Connah.

He said: “Depression doesn’t just affect one person, it affects everything around them. You need an army to fight against depression. We’re a close family and we’ve gone through this together. I couldn’t have got through this without my family.

“Michael has also been absolutely supportive. I kept checking if he wanted to pre-approve things but he just said to do what I needed to do to help myself and other people.”

Josh says the main message he wants people to take from Puzzle Pieces is that they are not alone in their battle against mental illness and they should allow other people to help them.

During lockdown he did a counselling course online and is now able to combine that with his barber’s work and has installed a private room at his salon where people can discuss difficult issues.

Puzzle Pieces, by Josh Gaskell, is out now on Amazon and Kindle.

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