Will was just 12 years old when his dad took his own life and within a week, his uncle passed away. His happy childhood of school, friends and caravan holidays suddenly changed, and life began to spiral out of control.
As an older teenager, Will was living alone and felt like he had nobody to turn to. He was overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts and was trapped in a cycle of depression and drug addiction.
Will explains: “I was leading a life of selling drugs, and in with the wrong crowds. I wanted to take my own life. I wanted to be with my dad really. I had enough of dealing with my depression and my drug addiction. I’d had enough of dealing with the grief.”
Desperate to find a way out, Will joined the Army, serving in the infantry for three years during which he went on tour to Afghanistan. When he left the military, Will’s mental health issues worsened due to PTSD and he returned to a life of drugs. He had two spells in prison on drugs charges, and it was during his second stint that his daughter was born. He was desperate to meet his little girl while he was in prison, but did not want to subject her to being searched.
Will saw his second prison sentence as an opportunity to get clean, and he began to study Criminology at the University of Manchester. It was only towards the end of his sentence, when he was moved to an open prison, that he met his two-year-old daughter for the first time. During that visit, he realised that he needed to turn his life around. Will said: “My daughter was two years old and I’d only seen her through pictures. I had a family visit and my daughter didn’t know who I was. She didn’t connect with me and she didn’t want to play or colour with me. And at that point I was like I’m not doing this anymore.
“For so long, I was lost because I wanted to be with my dad, but as soon as I met my daughter, I knew I wasn’t willing to put her through what I had experienced.”
Out of prison, Will, then working in catering, found physical exercise as a way to positively change his life after a last-minute opportunity to run a marathon. Initially getting into triathlons, he is now set to swim the English Channel to raise money and awareness for The Anthony Seddon Fund, a mental health charity based in Ashton-under-Lyne. So far, Will has raised £380 of his £2,800 target.
Talking about his charity swim, Will said: “It’s only me in that water. If I can mentally get myself to the other side of that Channel it will show others you can do whatever you want if you change your mindset.”
Having rebuilt his relationship with his partner and daughter, the family now live together in Tameside and have a baby boy on the way. When he’s not on dad duty, training or working as a labourer, Will has thrown himself into setting up a men’s talking group under the Directions for Men banner. The peer support group meet at Aldwinians Rugby Club in Audenshaw every Tuesday at 6pm. It gives men the chance to get together with a brew, sometimes a doughnut, to talk openly to others about whatever they are going through and get support from people with similar experiences.
Will added: “My journey to get to where I am now has been tough. I’ve been through hell but, through fundraising and facilitating peer support groups, I’m carrying a bucket of water to put the flames out to stop others getting burnt. I get upset knowing there are people sitting in the same position that I was, so I want to reach out to them or let them reach out to me.
“I hope by being part of the Shining a Light on Suicide campaign, I can help raise awareness and show people to not lose hope. I’d tell anyone who is struggling to please reach out and open up to someone about how you’re feeling.”
Will is supporting the Shining A Light On Suicide campaign, which has been commissioned by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership to take the sensitive subject of suicide out of the dark and encourage everyone to talk about it in an honest, open and direct way, so no one sees suicide as a solution to their problems.
Together we can help prevent suicide. Encourage someone to talk before suicide seems their only option.
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