It’s World Mental Health Day on Sunday and this week Dad Info is speaking to fathers who have been affected by mental health issues in different ways. Today we are speaking to dad of 3 Craig Harker, who is campaigning for better mental health care following his own struggle.
Earlier this year Craig, 34, found himself at the top of a cliff in Kent, feeling so desperate that he was considering jumping. He had been in what he describes as a ‘dark place’ for 6 and a half years, due to a drug addiction and access issues regarding seeing his children.
Hitting breaking point
‘It was a massive disaster, with my anxiety as well as my depression, and not seeing the children,’ Craig says of that time. ‘I got taken to hospital with what they thought was a heart attack, but I had actually had a panic attack and I got diagnosed with anxiety.’
Craig was offered therapy through the charity We Are With You which he found put him on a path to a better place. ‘It just dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s. I learnt the STOPP routine where you take a step back. With anxiety and negative thoughts it’s very easy to think you can predict what’s going to happen before anything has happened. It all just turned the lights on for me. For therapy you have to be ready. But a bit of hard work and self-belief and the world is your oyster.’
Taking up running and finding a sense of purpose through campaigning has helped Craig improve his life. He is working on a number of campaigns for mental health care, including raising money for the charity We Are With You, who provided his therapy, and working on a proposal for mental health hotline phones to be placed at suicide hotspots.
‘After my diagnosis, I thought what can I do to help? I want to raise money for We Are With You. I’m going to run 5k a day for 30 days. And then I’m going to go on to do campaigning to save lives,’ he says.
Craig raised over £1200 in August by running for We Are With You and is now moving on to other ideas, including a candle-light parade along his local seafront to create awareness about depression and suicide. ‘I want to show people that it is dark, and it is lonely, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel,’ he explains.
Aiming to support others
His main, aim, however, is to ensure that people are getting a chance to reconsider their next step when considering suicide, by proposing the idea of SOS mental health phones at suicide hotspots. ‘It’s good that people are talking about the issues, but nothing seems to be getting done. So that’s why I’m now starting a campaign for the SOS phoneboxes,’ he explains. ‘It just gives people the option, a second thought. In that moment you’re only there with your own thoughts. Even just to break up your own thoughts by speaking to someone on the phone could prevent a suicide.’
Craig lost two of his school friends to suicide, as well as two of his brother’s friends. ‘They had everything going for them- they had a family, a business… but you don’t know what’s going on for them. How can you explain to someone how you’re feeling when you don’t understand it yourself?’
A healthier future
Craig remains on medication and is still struggling with court troubles regarding access to his children, but has found a way to cope better with life throws at him. ‘It’s just a waiting game, and if something like that has been taken out of your control then there’s no point in beating yourself up about it. There was a time when I would have just curled up in my bedroom, and felt sorry for myself. But I see things in a different light now.’
Futher information and support:
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)
Or come and talk in our forum.