Morecambe health trust worker speaks out about his struggles with mental health in bid to help others

Health workers from Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust have opened up about their own mental health to highlight how issues can strike anyone at any time.

By Gayle Rouncivell
Saturday, 10th October 2020, 7:00 am
Stuart Kirk, pictured with Elaine three months before she passed away.
Stuart Kirk, pictured with Elaine three months before she passed away.

Stuart Kirk from Morecambe is among those to have spoken out as part of World Mental Health Day today, Saturday, October 10.

It is hoped that through the health trust staff showing how they have been through their own struggles with their mental health and understanding how it feels, it will encourage others to come forward and seek help.

Stuart, who has been a Support, Time and Recovery Worker with the trust in Morcambe for 30 years, lost his wife Elaine 10 years ago to cancer and has had his struggles with mental health.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

“I have a thing for remembering dates," he said. "I met my partner in 1994. I was 23, she was 22. Our first date was 11th April that very year. We bought our first house in 1995 and moved in on 16th June.

"We were so happy together and to top our happiness my partner gave birth to our only son on 9th June 1999. Over the moon was an understatement.

"In January 2008 we got the news that my partner had breast cancer. She and I had our occasional arguments, who doesn’t? But we loved each other so much, we got engaged with no specific plans to get married, we were happy as we were.

"She underwent six months of chemotherapy, had a mastectomy and underwent radiotherapy after the operation.

"She returned back to work in January 2009 after fighting this illness so bravely. We continued with our lives, we had to, both for our own mental health but also so that our son continued to live in a happy, loving, supportive household.

"Things seemed to be going well again for us until May 2010. We were given the devastating news that my partner now had advanced terminal liver cancer. She didn’t have long to live.

"My partner was a twin and one of 13 siblings and her family rallied round to help me with round the clock care for her.

"We tried to protect our son as much as we could but sadly the morning of 7th July 2010, whilst we were all sat having breakfast, she took her final breath and sadly passed away in front of us, aged 38.

"Our son was 11 years old when he saw his mum pass away. Between us finding out and her passing away, we had her for seven weeks. But I feel honoured to have shared 16 loving years with this amazing lady.

"I had to stay strong for our son and we put on a brilliant funeral for her, lots of loving people there to celebrate her life.

"The months following her death I gave up smoking and drinking alcohol as I realised I was all our son had left. As time progressed my mental health seemed to be deteriorating but I tried to maintain my happy smiling face as men tend to do.

"In February 2011 I took a trip to Morecambe promenade. I sat there for a while with all sorts of thoughts going through my mind. I had an exceptionally strong urge to walk into the sea and take my own life.

"I was listening to the radio on my phone as I was sat there when a song came on. Thoughts of our son, and that song, prevented me from doing it. The song I refer to was Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush’s 'Don’t Give Up'.

"That song still holds a special place in my heart and reminds me of how I nearly ended it all. I don’t try to avoid the song, I love to listen to it, but it always makes me cry.

"I immediately made an appointment to see my GP who was exceptionally supportive and prescribed me Citalopram which I took for six months and that made a huge difference.

"He also referred me for counselling but I only attended a couple of these sessions as I felt it “wasn’t for me.” It was our son, that song and my friends who helped me through it all and I will be forever grateful to all.

"It's now 10 years since my partner’s death. Our son is now 21 years old and has started university. He worked part time whilst at sixth form and worked exceptionally hard from leaving school at 18 and became a project manager.

"I have found a new partner and we plan on getting married in two years. We live together with her two kids and my son has his own house.”

If you are struggling with your mental health in Lancashire or South Cumbria, please get in touch with Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust’s Mental Health Crisis Line, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0800 953 0110.

There is also a new resource launched for public sector workers and volunteers who have been struggling to cope during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Lancashire and South Cumbria Resilience Hub is a resource for those who are in need of extra help and guidance on their wellness, to those who feel they need urgent psychological help to those who simply aren’t sure.

The team at the Lancashire and South Cumbria Resilience Hub can be reached on 01772 520228 or by email at [email protected]