A Manchester entrepreneur has spoken publicly for the first time about his battles with anxiety attacks.

Sam Jones is the managing director of Tunafish Media, a fast-growing content agency he set up with friends Richard Brooks and James McDonald in 2011 following university.

The 29-year-old said he was speaking out now ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week to offer hope to other sufferers.

“I've had anxiety on and off in various forms since I was a kid,” he told BusinessCloud editor Chris Maguire. “Back then it was weird in the sense that I was really OCD and couldn't get clean enough: I used to wash my hands until they were literally red raw.

“It seems to be more prevalent now I'm an adult, although I do have months where I feel absolutely fine.

“I can feel it building in my chest, sometimes for a couple of days beforehand – it’s a really strange feeling, like I’m hollow. And I can feel the pulse in my temple.

“I used to almost will them on, to get it over with. When it happens, I basically just can't get my breath.”

WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW BELOW OR LISTEN TO IT AS A PODCAST

Sam, from Failsworth, said that he would take his “game face” into his professional and public life.  However that all changed when he suffered an attack at work.

“About three years ago I had one in the office and they thought I was having a heart attack because they didn’t know about the anxiety,” he said.

“They wanted to call an ambulance and I was trying to tell them: ‘Don’t – I’ll be all right in 10 minutes!’”

As a result of that incident Sam underwent cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) , which he says helped him “massively”, and made changes to his lifestyle.

“Therapy’s got a bit of a stigma, although it really helps. I've also changed what I eat and drink,” he revealed. “When we started we were out networking all week, which involved a lot of heavy drinking, my diet was bad, I wasn't exercising much and I generally wasn't looking after myself. That’s when it was at its worst.

“Now I've completely cut caffeine out, which has had a big effect.”

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 Coming to acceptance has been a long journey for Sam but he says talking about it has been a huge step forward.

 "I've started talking about my attacks, which means they’re not something I'm hiding anymore, and that has helped loads,” he said.

“I've kind of accepted that it's just part of my life now, that there are some days that I'm just not well.

“I've got a lot better with dealing with them so now I can sense a full on attack coming on and deal with it before it happens.

“If you asked me in the pub I’d talk about it, so I don't see a reason not to speak publicly about it.”

BusinessCloud editor Chris Maguire said: “I’ve known Sam for five years and I’ve lost count of the number of awards he and Tunafish have won. I don’t know many people who work harder than Sam and he’s deserved his success.

"By speaking about his anxiety attacks he’s giving a voice to all the people out there going through the same thing but don’t feel able to talk about it.

"I’ve always admired Sam and now I admire him even more.”

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 8th-14th May and is aiming to increase the conversation around mental health. For more information visit the Mental Health Foundation website.

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