'If mental health got the same funding as physical health, lives could be saved'
A Norfolk father-of-two who attempted to take his own life while in the grip of a deep depression has shared his story in the hope of helping others.
Steve Foyster, who lives north of Norwich, made several suicide attempts around 30 years ago after a series of personal losses left his life spiralling out of control.
Now, with the help of talking therapies and wellbeing support, his emotional scars have healed and he is enjoying a happy, fulfilled life while working to raise awareness of the importance of safeguarding mental wellbeing.
“I had been severely depressed for over a year and couldn’t see anything other than blackness,” said Steve. “I had faced a huge amount of loss and just wanted to disappear.
“I felt that I was being squeezed into a person that I didn’t recognise and didn’t want to be and no longer had the capacity to love anyone, least of all myself.”
As Steve’s mental health deteriorated, he was prescribed anti-depressants, referred to a private psychiatrist and was later sectioned for his own safety and admitted to the Norvic Clinic in Norwich.
But it wasn’t until he make a further attempt on his life that Steve eventually got the combination of help he needed to change his life.
“After the incident, I spent six months in hospital recovering from a punctured lung, multiple fractures of the left ankle, broken pelvis, a ruptured sciatic nerve and compaction of the vertebrae,” added Steve.
“The nursing and physiotherapy care I received couldn’t have been better, but in all of that time I was visited by a psychiatric nurse only once.
“The GP I saw after my discharge from hospital was very good and incredibly helpful. He really listened to me and referred me back to the Norvic Clinic once a week, where I started having weekly sessions with a student community psychiatric nurse. It was very beneficial, as I felt that at last I had found someone who would listen to me.
“In recent years I have also taken part in wellbeing courses and received three months of cognitive behavioural therapy via my GP surgery. I found this therapy really useful and gave me a realistic way of dealing with my feelings. For me, that combination of holistic approaches really worked, and helped me to come out the other side.”
High levels of stress and constant chronic pain, some of which has been caused by the injuries sustained during his suicide attempt in 1986, has seen Steve return to some dark times during the past two years.
However, with the support and love of family and friends, by practising and tutoring mindfulness and drawing on his sense of humour, he has managed to pull through without touching the edge of what sometimes seemed to be an “unavoidable void”.
Steve has also spoken about his experiences to 60 junior doctors as part of a training seminar, and regularly holds evenings looking at mental health issues at the resource centre he manages.
“I remain passionate about mental health services and think that both providing education and giving people the chance to talk about their feelings is essential,” added the 59-year-old.
“It’s also incredibly important to raise awareness of mental ill health and break down the taboos which still exist – people are comfortable talking about cancer, for example, but still struggle with mental health, despite the fact one in four people now experiences issues.
“It remains exasperating, however, that funding for mental health remains far lower than that earmarked for physical illnesses. If funding was comparative, I’m sure that some young suicides could be prevented and lives could be saved every year.”
• Today (Monday) is World Suicide Prevention Day. If you need to talk, contact Samaritans on 116 123 or email email@example.com