June 9, 2016

On 14th October 2014 I awoke feeling like I had woken with the worst hangover imaginable. I looked around and had no idea where I was or who these strange people were around me. I walked in a daze to a locked door and was eventually allowed to eat something that resembled breakfast. Yes, I was sectioned. This was for my own safety and just like police custody the staff ensured there were no means available for me to take my own life. 

My wife visited me and I told her how it was on the wing, she kept reminding me that I was not in prison but that did not compute with me. 

I joined Essex Police in December 1986 and after many experiences, my mental health started to decline in 2013. Every now and again I would get flashbacks to certain incidents. I would feel sick as the memories flooded back. Other times, I would feel an overwhelming sense of despair, feeling that life was just not worth living. 

In January 2014 my illness started to take hold more and more. In small increments I started to drink, a little too much. This helped me to sleep and forget the pain, but it also helped the illness get a stronger hold as I felt down and lethargic.

I exercised three hours a day to stop the intrusive thoughts.

July 2014 onwards is still a blur to me. I am aware that I made irrational decisions and I had ever increasing suicidal thoughts. I recall nearly crashing at high speed and feeling bad that I had not died. This was not a wakeup call. Instead I dived deeper into the feelings I'd been experiencing. My wife told me to go to the Doctors. “Why?” I said, “I am not ill, I am OK!” 

I suffered rage and guilt simultaneously. On several occasions I was spoken to by supervisors. I wanted to tell them how I felt but the words would not come out. I gave little clues but these were not picked up on, because no one wants to talk about mental health. 

One day at work I said "I'd rather be dead than be here." I hoped someone would help me and dig a bit deeper, but I joke around to hide my pain, so people just laughed. I just could not tell them, or get them to understand. 

Mentally, I crashed in April 2014. I spent a week and a half unable to move, not talking and wanting to die. I finally saw a doctor and felt such relief when he believed me and prescribed me some medication. However, these had the side effect of temporarily worsening my mood. I spent a week or so in total despair. 

In May 2014 I self-harmed at home and broke down uncontrollably and I was taken to A&E. My Inspector visited me, so I smiled, putting on a brave face. “Yes, I feel ok!” The fact that he cared and supported me kept me alive more than he knew at that time. He was no longer my boss – he was a man who cared.

In September 2014, I was reported as a missing person. I had an overwhelming desire to die and took steps to do so. The Officer who took the report was inspiring. He took time and effort to show my wife how he cared and how he would try to find me and that she was NOT wasting his time.

I was in hospital for two weeks, the care and support I received was great. A great friend offered to visit and just talk to me about football. It was about Spurs, but never mind, the thought was awesome and it kept me going. 

Essex Police Officers and staff have been immense in my time of need. Kind words offered. People I hardly knew saying “I don’t know what I can do but can I help?” Books sent to me to aid recovery. No one laughed at me, which was a huge fear of mine. No one doubted me, no one put me down. All I received was positivity. I could not take their help but believe you me, it was appreciated more than they ever knew. Many of you said you have had some time living with PTSD and depression and have appreciated the support colleagues have offered.

What can you do? Well, in the midst of my illness, nothing you could say or do would make me feel any worse than I already did. I wanted to die – how could you make me feel worse? However, to you, the offer of help and support may not seem to do much, but in the long run it really means the world. 

I realised this condition is not because I'm weak. Thoughts of suicide are not a sign that you are a coward. When I was ill, I could not tell anyone as I feared their reaction. If you are suffering in silence try, try, try to tell one person – the support you will get can really make a difference, and you deserve to have it. 

To anyone who knows someone who's going through something like this - you don't need to have all the answers, just let them know you're there and you might just save a life. 

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