Mental health is further up the agenda today, but suicide is still an issue that devastates many lives in the UK and around the world. In fact, the rate of suicide was higher in 2018 than it was in 2017; the single biggest killer of men under 45. Three quarters of all UK suicides are male.
Meet Paul Shepherd everyone. Thanks to Phil Hewitt for introducing us. In Phil’s book, Outrunning the Demons, he helps 34 people tell stories of trauma, adversity and the role of running in recovery.
Paul was one of these stories.
He’s a Dad, a marathoner and a survivor of chronic depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol dependency. He was deeply affected by formative experiences at school, which shattered his self-esteem and dissolved his ability to feel he could be himself in the world.
In 2017, the struggles in his mind took control of his decisions and he made an attempt on his life, wading into the sea one freezing January night. Thanks to a chain of events forcing him to reconsider, Paul survived and immediately asked for help.
Perhaps, like me, you’ve wondered what goes through someone’s mind when they make the decision to end their lives. We talk about what depression and suicidal ideation was like inside Paul’s mind and body, what happened that January night on the beach in Bognor Regis and how he has managed to turn his mental health around. There are still difficult times, let’s not simplify this, but Paul has a toolkit. He also tells us about how his school life influenced his depression and the bullying he suffered at the hands of a teacher, who stole his confidence and agency.
To shout about the importance of men speaking up, and to help others feel that someone cares, Paul organised a 100km walk on his birthday from the place where he nearly took his life to London. It turned out to be the hottest day of the year, and some journey. He’s a powerful poster guy for what is possible after feeling the drive to end your life, and along with his son his shining priority is now to encourage others to talk about their inner battles and emotions more often.
“It’s ok to feel horrible sometimes. But own it. Embrace that feeling but then let it go. I can’t change what he did to me, but I can accept it, embrace it and own it”
Paul – you’re a star, thanks from all of us for sharing your story. I’d love for as many folks as possible to share this episode through a story or retweet, and say hi to Paul through his social sites below.
You can catch the episode from Friday 8am UK time in these places and other podcast apps.