Work is the cure

L- R Justin Whittam (kitchen fitter and company director Blackcat), Paul Currie homeowner (Patrick Bolan, owner and joiner Blackcat), Rick Hollingsworth (plasterer, decorator and joiner Blackcat) - front centre TBC

L- R Justin Whittam (kitchen fitter and company director Blackcat), Paul Currie homeowner (Patrick Bolan, owner and joiner Blackcat), Rick Hollingsworth (plasterer, decorator and joiner Blackcat) - front centre TBC

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Patrick Bolan was looking forward to his retirement - but ended up suffering from depression. DAVID NOWELL reports.

Patrick Bolan left the building trade in 2009 thinking that he’d put his feet up and take a well-earned rest – but instead of leaning back and enjoying his free time, he became clinically depressed.

Robin Williams

Robin Williams

For 25 years the Lancashire carpenter and joiner ran building projects and did maintenance for a large nursing home complex but after his terms and conditions of employment changed, he decided to leave with nothing to go to.

He thought that after years of hard work, doing nothing would do him good.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Retirement hit Preston-based Patrick hard; stuck at home he became clinically depressed and soon found himself unable to do anything, even get out of his chair.

It would take him months to get back to normal – and it was only helped by starting up in business again.

Now Patrick, 60, has emerged from his darkest moments by leading a dream kitchen makeover for a fellow depression sufferer.

“Depression is a black hole, a deep, black hole. I say to people that I went to hell and back

“I sometimes get frightened it’ll come back. Being depressed makes you feel very vulnerable.”

Patrick’s story is not unusual.

According to a recent report by Institute of Economic Affairs in association with the Age Endeavour Fellowship, retirement increases the probability of suffering from clinical depression by about 40 per cent as well as having an impact on your physical health. The road to recovery isn’t easy either.

The recent death of entertainer Robin Williams has highlighted the hidden menace of depression.

Said Patrick : “It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, getting out of my depression. You don’t realise you need help and even with that help, only you can help yourself.”

Luckily for Patrick he did get better. He found a workshop, bought equipment, established a company and called it Blackcat in honour of his pet kitten.

As a qualified carpenter and joiner, he was keen to run a bespoke woodwork business but he soon realised it was a crowded marketplace and he couldn’t match his competitor’s prices.

Said Patrick: “ I discovered that so many product manufacturers were doing it socheaply that I couldn’t compete. So I diversified back into the construction side, got CHAS accreditation, joined James Hall as a property maintenance contractor and started to build up my private work on the side.”

It was on one of these private jobs that Patrick met his now co-director Justin, a veteran of ITV’s 60 minute makeover.

The two hit it off. Justin’s joinery skills perfectly complimented Patrick’s ambitions to move into general building. The pair also took on a new apprentice, Rick Hinchcliffe, a multi-skilled plasterer, joiner and decorator.

Now a maintenance contract with James Hall, the Spar’s delivery company, provides Longridge-based Blackcat with the security the firm needs in order to start expanding.

Last year, after talking to a fellow tradesman, Justin suggested that they join MyBuilder.com, an online site where tradesmen advertise using online profiles and homeowners hire builders and leave feedback.

Patrick said: “Justin had heard that it was an excellent site and I was impressed with the way they checked you had your insurances and liability.”

On the website, Patrick discovered the story of 46-year-old Paul Currie from Liverpool.

Paul lost his job and relationship to a long term depressive illness called dysthymia. He entered MyBuilder.com’s competition to win a £3,000 kitchen makeover.

He didn’t win, but when Patrick heard his story, his heart went out to him.

Patrick and Justin got together and agreed to manufacture, fit and decorate Paul’s kitchen at cost price. The job is now finished.

Paul Currie said: “Their kindness is just amazing – you don’t know what a difference the kitchen will make to our lives! I feel like my life is starting all over again!”.