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Suicide awareness

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A life like Rob’s

When Rob’s depression became too much, he thought his only option was suicide. And he came very close to ending his life.    

Thankfully, when he was feeling at his lowest, Rob remembered an old note in his wallet with messages of support from friends.    

Rob's friends' words saved his life

“A few years earlier, I was preparing to run 155 miles across the Sahara Desert as part of the Marathon Des Sables. I asked a few friends to give me a reason why I would succeed. They wrote back and I put all their words in a note and kept it with me for motivation. I didn’t use the note during the ultra-marathon. I put it in my wallet afterwards and forgot about it.      

“When I was sat there, ready to end it all, I remembered the note and read it.      

“It made me realise there was hope and I knew that my life would change forever.    

“I wanted to be an Army Officer from the age of eight.

“My father inspired me to join the Army. He had done National Service. He was a caretaker at the school I went to, and he used to march around pretending his broom was a rifle. It mesmerised me. 

“The Army offered me everything I wanted, adventure, leadership, excitement. 

“I joined in 1995 and went to Sandhurst in 1996. My first operational tour was Bosnia followed by tours of Kosovo, Northern Ireland, and Afghanistan. 

“By 2000 I was in a bad way. 

“I was working too hard, and I was burnt out. 

“I had a cold that wouldn’t shift, and I went to see the medical officer. He had known me for years, and he delved a bit deeper. He said, ‘I need you to speak to someone else’. I saw a community mental health team who diagnosed me with depression.   

“My attitude was to plough on. I wanted to get things done. I didn’t want to let people down.  

“I stopped looking after myself, stopped eating the right food, stopped exercising. My sleep suffered. My health declined and I got into a downward spiral. 

“I was nervous and on edge. I was still competent at what I was doing, but I was a hollow person inside. Around this time, I started having suicidal thoughts. 

“I was having therapy but looking back I wasn’t paying enough respect to the therapy or to myself. So, things got worse, and the suicidal thoughts escalated. 

“I came back from an operational tour, at the end of that tour somebody that I had worked with had been killed. I went into a different job in the military, in a very different environment. For the first time in my adult life, I moved out of military accommodation and moved in with somebody.  

“I wasn’t giving myself time to reflect, look after myself and recover.    

Rob felt like suicide was the only option, but he reached out to the Charity for help. - Help for Heroes

“I felt anger and hate, and I had lost a lot of pride and confidence. It felt like I had a mountain of uncertainties. 

“Was I going to leave the Army as perhaps it wasn’t for me anymore? Was a relationship about to end? Was I going to have to move home? Was I going to have to find a job?  

“I thought ‘this is too much. I can’t cope. I’m broken’. 

“I was isolating myself from society. My attitude was ‘I’m going down, I don’t want anyone to go down with me’. 

“I was trying to protect those around me. But it had the opposite effect. Suicide felt like the only option. 

“If you don’t talk about it or get help, a suicidal thought can become a behaviour or an attitude over time. That can become planning, which can become doing something about it.”  

After Rob came close to ending his life, he spent some time in hospital. He was still in the military and was supported through their channels.  

Since leaving the military, Rob has had support from Help for Heroes.   

“I never thought I would have to turn to a charity for support. But I am so glad they were there. I did one of their courses. It gave me a peace of mind when my mind was busy, broken and exhausted. There have been peaks and troughs in my civilian life. Help for Heroes was there for me in the bad times and the good times, such as singing together in the choir and competing with other veterans on the athletics tracks. 

“Their Hidden Wounds mental health service provided that stop gap whilst the NHS support kicked in, which was crucial. I was fairly lost early on in my veteran experience. Help for Heroes took me in with a few other veterans and we became good friends. That was invaluable. 

“I do a lot of athletics now through Help for Heroes. I strongly believe there is a massive connection between physical fitness and mental fitness. 

“We talk about our physical fitness, but we don’t talk about our mental fitness. 

“We might say, ‘I have a problem with my leg, so I am seeing a physio. It’s affecting my running, so I am going to ease off running for a bit’. If we can have those same conversations about mental fitness and say, ‘My mind is not right at the moment, I am not going to be able to take that extra pressure on, I am going to ease off, I am going to seek some professional help’, that would really help. 

Rob is an advocate for having open and honest conversations about suicide to stop the stigma. - Help for Heroes

“It’s important to read between the lines. Spotting those signs early in someone who is struggling could be the difference between life and death. 

“There’s no problem with just messaging or calling someone and saying, ‘I’m just checking in’.  

“It's that classic thing of a problem shared is a problem halved. Even calling or going on a video call and seeing someone’s face can lift people’s spirits. I know it does in my personal experience. 

“Taking the Help for Heroes and Zero Suicide Alliance training is so important. 

“If you have that training in your toolbox, it’s always going to be there. It could be one week, one month, one year, where you suddenly come across somebody in need and that training will really help. 

“It could save somebody’s life.”  

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