I make no secret of the fact I have a severe and enduring mental health problem due to an incident as a police officer. After my military career, and prior to becoming a police officer, I went on to achieve a first class honours degree in Clinical Mental Health Nursing (I hear you, the irony is breathtaking) and worked as a specialist in Assertive Outreach using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I started a PhD before I left the NHS to join the police (research around social inclusion and the impacts of suicide) so I know my subject - and my subject definitely knows me. I'm determined to highlight the ongoing problems people with mental health problems continue to experience within our societies - particularly around male suicide and our reluctance to seek help for fear of becoming stigmatised or being seen as somehow weak. Allied to that, of course, is my strong belief we can all benefit from being outdoors and reconnecting with nature. I do that through the medium of my photography which I credit with helping my mental state enormously. I'm also a fully qualified life-coach, and many of my years in the military were spent as a physical and adventurous training instructor. I keep myself very fit here at home in my own gym despite a number of orthopaedic operations and ongoing problems with joint pain. I'm a great believer in the concept of holism so after my last suicide attempt I took a long, cold look at how I could improve my own wellbeing despite the attritional effects mental illness can have on your physical health (and vice-versa). So. I eat a mainly plant-based diet (I've been a vegetarian for over 30 years, but eat vegan for at least three days a week), don't drink alcohol or caffeine, and I've never smoked. I've cut out all of my toxic relationships with people, places and my own hubris, and feel that for the first time in many years I've arrived in a place that's helping my mental and physical health along with improving my self-esteem and worldview. Paradoxically I feel more at peace with myself than I have for nearly thirty years.
Why is any of that relevant?
I see myself as ideally placed and qualified to speak about the subject of mental and physical health, and how best to improve your quality of life (although I don't find it easy trust me). I'm now a professional photographer and author who's appeared on BBC Countryfile, Radio 5live, and BBC Radio Solent to name but a few. More recently I've given presentations at the Sherborne Literary Festival and a number of other venues talking about my journey from rock bottom to travelling around the world as a wildlife photographer and the publication of my first book. I'm committed to get my message of hope out there to a wider audience. Don't get me wrong, I'm a guy who loves to be in the shadows rather than being in the glare of the spotlight, but I can't sit by and watch more lives being needlessly lost just because I'm afraid to leave my comfort zone. One person will take their life every 40 seconds - that's over 800,000 fellow human beings in a year on the globe. That's unacceptable, so I'm here to tell my story and hopefully give hope to people who may have lost it.
I've now done several public speaking events and the feedback has been very positive. People have spoken with me after the event or sent me emails days later saying how I've resonated with them after they or a loved one experienced mental illness that tore their lives apart. Some of those people had lost loved ones to suicide and just wanted to reach out to thank me for being so open about my own suicide attempts and my mission to break down the stigma that still surrounds self-harm. One person even said he had considered taking his own life that week but had read an article about me and my journey and chose instead to speak with his GP about getting help. If that's not worth a few painful moments telling an audience of complete strangers just how low I went before I sought help then nothing is...
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you think your organisation, community or school might benefit from a presentation from me. I very much look forward to hearing from you and hope I can be of help in some small way as we fight what is a modern-day tragedy of wasted and broken lives that leave so many people bereft, lost and hurt.
Link to BBC 5live interview:
Link to the Steve Harris Show on BBC Radio Solent interview:
Link to the livestream book release presentation: