It’s OK To Say: How St Albans musician is fighting back after reaching an all-time low
- Credit: Archant
As part of our ongoing It’s OK To Say mental health awareness initiative, campaign founder Stacey Turner speaks to local musican Mark Christopher Lee about his own challenges.
Walking into The Rose and Crown in Sandridge, we recognise each other immediately. Mark is most notably known for his career in music, he is the frontman for The Pocket Gods and a music producer, and also has a World Record to add to his achievements for the most songs on one album.
We'd been emailing for some time now trying to arrange this very special interview to talk openly about his experiences and that is exactly what we did.
Just as this photo has no filter, there was no filter on our conversation. With the support of his wife, psychotherapy obtained through the NHS and alternative therapies sought privately, Mark is the hero of his own story and while difficult, he sits across the table from me in an hour-long interview and explains.
Suddenly, Mark felt like he couldn't go on. It wasn't that he didn't want to, because actually he did.
He just wanted to break free from his current situation that had become so consuming, and found himself out in the woodland near his home with tablets in hand and the intention to take his life.
What makes this story remarkable is that Mark has a way of putting such clarity on his actions, he can explain what happened, why and how he felt and indeed still feels about his choice to live and face whatever was to come.
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Mark is a man of extraordinary strength, he has been fighting adversity since he was a young boy.
He was abused sexually as a child by his father and locked in small spaces, later to escape willing to begin a new life.
While Mark was on a high professionally, he never quite escaped the hold of his father and even with his best attempts to put the past behind him and lock his father out, sadly, his father found the telephone as a way of further torment.
In the lead up to the moment Mark found himself in the woodland, he explains how he had been subject to his father's phone calls for two years, slowly chipping away at him and forcing him to deal with not only his parent now, but the scars of abuse. Couple that with his financial crisis exploding, which he had tried to mend on a promise of investment.
Mark explains how he has always felt it was his responsibility and wanted to provide for his family, so protectively, he muddled through.
He finally felt a sigh of relief on the guarantee of investment only to in time discover that this was a false promise.
It was at this point that the stacking of everything created a swirling mess, his fight or flight kicked in and lead Mark to pick up those tablets and run.
With choppers hovering above and the sounds of police dogs in the distance, Mark realised what he was doing and decided this was not what he wanted, he wanted to live and surely what was to come couldn't be any worse than what he was already feeling and going through.
Despite Mark's choice, police were now involved and had to follow protocol and section him.
The following 24 to 48 hours saw Mark in a high security holding cell which, as he explains, was his worst nightmare: "I was locked in small spaces as a child, so being confined in that holding cell while waiting to be reviewed by a doctor was my worst nightmare!"
He is extremely passionate about the way people are handled and treated in a crisis: "It's inhumane and of Victorian attitude."
He explained how the small holding cell had bright lights and he was kept there for many hours, considering his past, I realise how mentally strong he is, but it's enough to break anyone.
While Mark was discharged, he knew he now had to face up to things, involve his wife in not only his recovery, but in helping organise the family's finances and that he did indeed need help.
Once he was able to, Mark reached out for help with his financial crisis.
"It really wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be and all the companies were supportive," he explained.
He sought help from Stepchange, a charity that offers free debt advice based on an assessment of your situation and provides practical help and support for however long it's needed, and Business Debtline, another charity giving free debt advice to small businesses and self-employed people.
Both these charities were instrumental in helping Mark make the calls and instigate the help he needed.
Mark explained: "Due to having been through what I've been through and once I explained the whole situation, the bigger companies were able to write the debt off. I was insensitively asked in an interview, what was it like to have no money at Christmas! I didn't sink myself deliberately, yes, I like nice things, but it was a situation where in order to get ahead, I had to borrow money, I was trying really hard for the sake of my family.
"I had taken the word of someone I trusted for investment, borrowed with this knowledge and I was let down. It could happen to anyone."
It can happen to anyone and financial crisis is more common than we know. In fact, Business Debtline helped 51,370 people in 2018 with 338,542 visits to their website.
Mark and I agreed facing up to any issue is hard, but with help, support and a plan in place, it is possible. When you're in that dark place, you can't see the solutions, so it's important to reach out to someone neutral who can guide you.
"There is a way out," says Mark. "I am passionate about encouraging men to open up and talk to someone, talk to each other and gain any help and support needed. Don't be afraid to open up and encourage your mates to open up.
"I couldn't see or think clearly, I am so happy to be here and feel very positive about the future."