"When you get so tired of letting people down, suicide seems like the only option"Read more
Beamed live to a Sky Sports audience of millions, and in front of a sell-out Crown Ground, Paul was the maverick midfielder that put then non-league minnows Accrington Stanley on the map with the winning penalty in a shoot-out against then Second Division Bournemouth in December 2003. He revelled in the adulation and attention his career brought. Twenty-two at the time, he had the world at his feet. But he liked to party as much as he loved to play, and more than a decade later – away from the game – he hit rock bottom. So low that, he says: I felt the world would be better off without me. Howarth had forged a successful career as a financial advisor after finishing his playing career.
But instead of contentment the father of two found himself on a pathway to self-destruction – drinking heavily and closing himself off from family and friends. Sporting Chance, a clinic which provides help and support for current and former professional sports people experiencing difficulties with addiction, gave him a second chance. Now Paul is the CEO of PH7. The organisation he created so other people would never feel as low as once did. The organisation he hopes will change the face of mental health for good.
I came out of playing football full-time and carried on playing part-time when I left Accrington (in the summer of 2005). I played for Droylsden and Hyde, while building up my career in financial planning,” Howarth, now 36, said. “I snapped my Achilles about three or four years ago, ran into some relationship difficulties and it just crept up on me. I just found myself in a place completely on my own, lost, didn’t know where to turn, didn’t know what to do.
I was pushing people away and my ego kept me from seeing the truth of what was happening. I didn’t want to show I was hurt or what was really going on for me inside. I acted and manipulated situations around me to make it fit how I wanted it to fit. I realise now I was protecting myself from a lot of hurt inside. On the outside I was perceived to be doing pretty well in life and progressing but underneath I was crumbling. I was in a pretty bad place. To go through professional sport and then to come out of it and go into business and be successful at that – to then find yourself at a place in life where you think the world’s going to be better off without you in it is a pretty dark place to get to, but that’s where I ended up.
"I lost my identity. Which almost made me take my life"Read more
Will was injured during his time in the army, and was placed in an office role. Will didn’t know how to deal with such a rapid life change, and the loss of his identity. He reached out for help after he was stood on a bridge, in army uniform ready to take his life. ‘A little old lady’ talked him round from the episode and Will is now working on getting his life and future back together.
"450 suicidal days"Read more
I didn’t want to do this picture. This isn’t just ‘picture taking’, it’s an emotional journey back into the life you never want to be part of again. The darkest, most desperate, lost and potentially life ending places you’ve ever been. I wasn’t ready to let that guard down, put myself back there and feel all that pain I’ve tried for years to hide.
As I sat in the captured position it made all the memories flood back. This wasn’t just a position that someone was holding me in, this was THE position. I’ve spent countless days and nights curled into his chest in some way, listening to his heart beat. People calm anxiety in different ways, one of mine was to go ‘into my safe place’ on his chest and listen to his heart. It would instantly soothe me and bring me back to reality. I’ve come a long way from my really dark days, but sitting here, hearing his heart beating once again took me straight back there, and that’s what broke me. I did this picture because of the man sat holding me. It almost feels like a cop out that I couldn’t do it alone, but that’s ok. Sometimes we need to accept the help on offer. Whether that is letting someone take us to see a doctor, just listening to our problems or quite literally holding you just to have a picture taken! Mental health will never be solved without the support of people around us. The man in my picture doesn’t make it all better, because he can’t, but he doesn’t give up – even if I think he should.
He’s the one who knows me better than I know myself at times. I’ve put him through hell, literally. He’s heard me scream, wail, cry, sob and be so far from the person he knows I am… he’s heard me detail how I want to die, countless times. He knows I’ve spent approximately 450 days of the last 15 years thinking of how I could die. He’s watched me stand in roads and want to die. He’s called the police when he’s been too far away to help me. He’s seen and heard it all, and even though his position in my life has changed over the years, he’s still here.
"I blame myself for my step dads suicide"Read more
If anyone is supposed to save people, it’s me. I’ve worked as a mental health nurse all of my adult life. I couldn’t save Paul.
Paul was the most incredible step father, but he had so many demons and issues to battle. My mother and I loved him immensley, and he knew that. We still do. I tried everything, but I must not have tried hard enough. I took him to doctors appointments, he picked up the phone whenever he was low, I was always there to listen and I tried as hard as I could to get him on the right medication and therapy plan. I don’t know where I went wrong, but it must have been somewhere.
The week before Paul took his life, we had been in the doctors. I sat with him as he told him about his latest bout of depression. I spoke when I needed to, but I didn’t speak enough. If I had just told the doctor Paul had started taking anti-depressants again, if I spoke louder about how depressed he seemed. He may still be here. Nothing can or will ever prepare you for the moment the police are stood in front of you, but when they came to my work that day. I knew. I knew Paul had gone.
"The life and soul of the party, who couldn't leave the house"Read more
Most people describe me as ‘the life and soul’ of a party. Which I’m sure a lot of people with a mental illness can relate to. It’s a mask we wear to stop people getting behind the cracks in our armour. I had to do the ‘Think Twice’ campaign because I know I’m a man that people would never have any idea had a mental health problem. I want people to see that this tough guy. Confident. Life and soul of every party. Has been to hell and back, and all the time hid behind a smile. I had everyone fooled. I felt such a failure and ashamed.
Until that one day, up in the hills, alone, I decided to leave this life. I battled with the demons and after 6 hours I finally came to a realisation and accepted the fact I had to reach out for help, and desperately. I am ‘living proof’, in every sense of the word, that you can come back from that dark hole. All you have to do is talk. I hope ‘Think Twice’ creates conversations between people and helps them open that door to help.
"Depression isn't supposed to happen to people like me"Read more
‘Having experienced depression first hand, I can’t emphasise enough how important the opportunity to talk through your feelings with empathetic people is, in order to manage and hopefully combat this debilitating illness. All forms of wellbeing, both mental and physical, are addressed at PH7.
The charity should take a lot of credit for tackling these highly sensitive issues and changing the face of mental health. I am proud to be involved with PH7, and I’m proud to be part of the ‘Think Twice’ campaign. Truly, we never know what each other is going through. Depression and mental illness have an effect on so many people, we shouldn’t be ashamed of it. That’s why I am happy to hold my hand up and say I have also been affected. I think a lot of people may be surprised by that, but if speaking up helps others to ask for help, may be less people will suffer in the future.
"My horses revealed the root of my PTSD & put me on the path to recovery"Read more
"I will never be good enough for myself"Read more
Patrick has been a fireman for almost 20 years, he has also been the face of the ‘Milk Tray’ adverts. What most people wouldn’t know about Patrick is that he will never be good enough for himself. Often living with despair, worthlessness and pain that nothing he can do, despite the support, love and care of people around him will ever truly remove his fears about himself.
"I wanted to go to bed and wake up in a month"Read more
When you hear something often enough you start to believe it! I was never enough, I wasn’t clever enough, thin enough, pretty enough, sexy enough, you get the gist. I was never going to be enough. At the time, these words really hurt me and started to become beliefs that I took on. I dieted, I trained, I had hair extensions, etc, but that wasn’t enough either. On top of never being enough, I was also responsible for the way this person treated me, cheated on me and the way that he felt. All of that was all my fault, so you can imagine how it was really easy to start to feel like an all round generally shitty person. I was also told constantly that I should really be grateful to him, because if it wasn’t for him no one would want me!
After months of heart break, tears, screaming, crying, name calling, the list goes on. It ended quite dramatically one night with the police being called. He was arrested, but only to be released the next day with out charge. It was only two months later that domestic abuse became illegal. Not only was I so confused with everything in life, I had completely lost me. I had no idea who I was anymore when I didn’t have someone telling me where I belonged or what to do. Had I dreamt it? Were the things he said about me true? Was I such a shitty person? I needed answers and I couldn’t get them.
I only had a few friends left the rest had grown sick of the drama months ago, even my parents couldn’t take anymore. I felt alone and isolated. At this point I could not get my brain to switch off, thoughts were going around and around in my head constantly jumping from one possibility to the next, I was catastrophising everything. That’s when anxiety made its way into my life, but in a debilitating way. I was scared and I was really, really lonely. I remember driving home in tears whilst speaking to one of my friends and saying ‘I wish I could go to bed and wake up in a month when its all over and it wont hurt so much anymore’. I cried myself to sleep most nights, I didn’t eat much, I didn’t dare go out. My paranoia was at an all time high and I convinced myself that people would be talking about me.
Over the next few months I invested my time in counselling, personal development, training and new friends. I slowly learnt to trust again and the training that I did helped me to see that I wasn’t a shitty person at all and everything I had gone through was abuse. Fast forward a few years and my life is in a completely different place. I meet the most amazing man who truly is my soul mate and is a huge part of my healing. He has two beautiful children and we build our life together.