It’s ok to talk about suicide
My name is Steve Carr and I'm A Mental health, workplace well-being, and suicide first-aid facilitator, consultant, and pilot.
I've been delivering training for the past 4 years to organisations all over the UK wanting to understand more about how they can do more to support the mental health and well-being of their staff. Prior to delivering training, I was in middle management sales positions. I've been fortunate to work for some of the world's largest and most recognised organisations, living life at 100 miles per hour, trying to smash sales targets, and prove my worth.
That was until 2015 when I experienced a nervous breakdown whilst at work.
The breakdown occurred due to many factors, it wasn't just the pressure from work. I think it would help you to understand why it happened if I give you some context.
I grew up in a town called Swindon in Wiltshire, in a three-bed mid-terrace council house on a rough council estate in the 1980s with my Mother, Father, and siblings, Paul my elder brother by a year, and Claire my younger sister by a year. I was subjected to many traumatic experiences, from being mugged at 14 years old, to seeing my mother and father beaten up.
I shared a bedroom with my brother, who I always thought was slightly odd as he used to listen to Heavy Metal, I, on the other hand, listened to rave music, so it’s easy to see why I thought he was odd, I'm also sure he would have said the same about me. I have many fond memories from my younger years, it wasn’t all bad. We often used to visit my Aunts in the summer holidays, the never-ending summers as a child were incredibly hot in the early ’80s. My aunt lived in Barry Island, on the steepest hill in the town, and her house is quite famous, it’s the house where the filming for ‘Gavin and Stacey’ the hit sitcom, took place. It was my favourite holiday destination, simply because we couldn’t afford to go abroad. I remember Nick Kershaw, A-HA, and Madonna playing on the radio; I guess I’m showing my age now. My brother and I used to hang out with the same people in our early teens, I can remember my brother had a ‘Raleigh Chopper’ and I had a ‘Raleigh Grifter’ they were both found in a skip by my father. They were always breaking down, on many occasions my brother would be swearing and kicking his bike, until one day he literally threw it in a bush and left it there.
They were great times, that was until we both approached our last years in school, that’s when our tastes in music and friends changed.
On the morning of Friday the 13 of September 1991, just after breakfast, around 7 am, my brother, asked me if I wanted to meet him at Akers Way in Swindon later that evening, it was about 3 miles away from where we lived, it’s a very nice area of Swindon, lots of open space with grassy areas along a fairly straight road, it’s roughly 3 miles in length and halfway along is a roundabout that heads into an industrial estate.
The reason my brother asked was that it was his partner's 18th birthday. I knew he probably had something nice planned, as he too just wanted to be loved, and he showed it by giving it to others.
I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life.
Little did I know, I would never see my brother again after that morning.
Later that evening he was tragically killed, along with four other children, by a reckless drunk driver in the Akers Way horror crash in Swindon. Paula Barnes, 15, Belinda Brown, 19, Paul Carr, 16, Sheree Lear, eight, and seven-year-old Ian Lilley were playing on the grassed area off Akers Way when driver Shaun Gooch lost control of his car at high speed and crashed into the group of youngsters. The tragedy shook the community and provoked fury among campaigners who had long been calling for a lower speed limit and other safety measures on the road.
My life and family life were torn apart.
After the death of my brother my father declined professional help, which meant my sister and I didn’t receive any either. I was 15 years old in 1991, and I was a troubled child, I was associating with people that ‘got me’, they were also troubled in some way. The reason behind this was a traumatic upbringing, I had witnessed many things no 15-year-old boy should.
My father was going through his own grieving process and wasn't coping very well, the family was falling apart, the arguments became quite severe, none of us really knew at the time it was trauma playing out that wasn't being processed. Less than a year later my mother and father divorced.
At 16 years old I was losing all control of my life and my father couldn’t deal with my erratic behaviour, he told me that he didn’t want me living at home any longer and that he wanted me out. I was 16 years old with no clue about money, finances, or the world, and I was being told I had to leave the family home. This hit me like a brick.
I was working at a Printers on a Y.T.S scheme earning £50 a week, I couldn’t afford a flat, and I wasn’t living with strangers, or so I thought. I had to find help fast.
I was told my local council would be able to help support me, which they actually did, but I still had no clue about finances and so I started purchasing things on Hire Purchase that I really couldn't afford.
I lost contact with my Mother, Father, and Sister. I couldn’t hold onto any form of relationship for long periods of time due to the fear of loss and rejection, and as fast as I was gaining friends, jobs, and relationships, I was losing them. During my early 30’s, things started to look up for me. I made contact with my father again and asked if I could come home to save for a house, I was so pleased when he said that I could. I was doing extremely well at this point, working as a Business Development Manager for a very large corporate organisation; I had my own house, car, and was in a happy relationship. At this point, I became a bit of a socialite, always out with friends parting and drinking at weekends.
On one particular night out I was introduced to cocaine.
I had one line and that was it, I was hooked.
I started taking cocaine every day, I took 20k equity out of my house to feed my habit, I quit my job, lost my partner, pushed my friends away stopped paying the mortgage, I would end up selling everything in my house to feed the habit. I remember sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor of my house where I had sold everything. What I didn’t realise at the time was this was all the unresolved trauma fighting to come out of me, and I wasn’t aware of it. I’ve had and lost so many amazing jobs due to my hedonistic lifestyle that was masking the underlying trauma, had I known then what I know now, I believe my life would be so different.
The house was eventually repossessed, I became homeless and was living on the streets.
An old friend would come across me whilst I was living rough and offered to help me back on my feet.
How did I let my life get this way?
I was a homeless drug addict with nothing more than what I was wearing to my name.
My habit continued until I was 39 years old, flitting in and out of jobs, unable to concentrate, or forge any lasting relationships. I couldn’t stop what I was doing no matter how bad things became. After my employment was terminated at yet another company, I wanted to check out, I had no job, no friends, and no family.
This was when suicide became an option for me.
I wanted the pain to end, and so with a concoction of drugs & alcohol including Cocaine, Methadrone, & legal highs, I attempted to end my life.
This would happen a further 2 times until something in me knew I couldn't do it again.
With the little energy I had left I did something that felt like it was the largest task I had ever tried to do, I asked my G.P for help.
I forced myself into confessing everything to my doctor, this took almost 39 years of suffering, I sat in her office, shaking, barely being able to speak, and said ‘Please, Please, help me, I can’t go on like this, I don’t want to live like this, .........I’m a drug addict’. That was it, I had said it out loud, and burst into tears. I also felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. After a few more meetings with my G.P and other services, I was told I was suffering from unresolved childhood trauma, high functioning Anxiety, Depression, work-related Stress, Addiction, and borderline PTSD.
I was offered medication, which I declined, I wanted to take the holistic approach and find out what was going on in my mind, I wasn’t masking it further with prescription drugs. I chose to go cold turkey and walk the length of Britain to find out what help was available for me, and people like me who were suffering from Mental Health issues. 90 days of self-discovery and shaking, living in a tent and sleeping in weather conditions that would sink below -4 some nights. My story has been broadcast on BBC and ITV news, and nearly every BBC radio station and newspaper I could find that would publish it across the country.
This would start a process of therapy & clinical help, from Counselling, NLP, CBT, Hypnosis, trauma therapy, Coaching, Nature, Exercise.
"When you hit rock bottom it offers you a chance to start from scratch".
On my return, I knew it was just the beginning of my recovery and rebuilding phase of my life, and so I went onto achieve the following, all in the name of Mental Health.
- Walked from Swindon to Downing Street to deliver a report on my findings from the walk, 70 miles.
- Cycled 7 countries in Europe in 11 days, raising money for charity, 1500 miles.
- Cycled from Liverpool to Lands End raising awareness for PTSD in 4 days, 350 miles.
- Cycled from Barcelona to Paris in 7 days raising awareness for social isolation over Christmas, 700 miles.
- Cycled for Swindon to the Lake-district for Mental Health Awareness Week 2016, 280 Miles.
- Ran up Snowdonia & Coppa Mountain in 1 day raising awareness for ADHD, 40 miles.
- Ran to Buckingham Palace from Hungerford for World Mental Health day 2017, 70 miles.
- Cycled to Buckingham Palace and back in 1 day for Mental Health week 2017, 140 miles.
- Cycled to France in 4 days, 385 miles.
- Cycled non-stop for 11hrs for world bipolar day 2018.
- Created Mindcanyon the Business
- Qualified as a Certified Life Coach
- Gained my private pilot's license
- Qualified as a suicide first aid trainer
- Qualified as a mental health first aid instructor
All in under three years. The catalyst for change or that ‘AHA’ moment was remembering all the good times I had as a child, the money in the bank, the holidays before cocaine addition, the house that was mine, the friends I pushed away, the love I almost had, the unfulfilled dreams of who I could be.
Why recovery and rehabilitation are critical to rebuilding a life that suits you after experiencing poor mental health and mental illness.
I now see that not all mental health issues are permanent and that recovery is possible, we can start a new life, walking away from things and people that no longer serve us, set healthy boundaries, have routines that work for us, and start to rebuild our lives.
Five years after my breakdown and I can honestly say I’ve never felt better, it feels truly amazing to be able to help others, it’s like I’ve gained a new lease of life, found my passion and my purpose. The reason I now do what I do is that I’ve lived it, and I believe nobody else should have to suffer in silence the way I did due to lack of education in mental health in the workplace, it’s the reason I get up everyday.
My mission is to help guide others into a new way of living, to allow them to let go of the past and lead an amazing life and build a future where they too feel empowered.
It's never a weakness to ask for help because we just don't know how long the person has been suffering in silence, it's a strength most will never know.
The final message I want to leave you with is this:
The first step is always the hardest, but no matter how hard it is, take it, because, with the right help and support, recovery is possible.
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