WHEN Paul Fairclough hit rock bottom late 2017, the pictures of his two children on his mobile phone were the only thing that stopped him from taking his own life.

The 35-year-old had suffered from severe depression for a decade, but his illness came to a head in November last year.

Paul, from Gorse Covert, had got divorced, been made bankrupt and lost his home and car – pushing him to the brink of taking a fatal overdose.

He said: “There was no light at the end of the tunnel.

READ MORE > 5 signs to look out for with people with mental health problems

READ MORE > Inspiring story of how woman fought back

“I had the tablets ready – I was very close to calling it a day, but when you look at your phone and see the pictures of your children you think ‘I’ve got to sort this out instead of going the wrong way’.

“It had built up and built up, and then it all spiralled late last year.

“Every time anything good happened, something else would come along and knock me on my backside – it was just getting worse each time.

“I burst into tears in work because I just didn’t want to be alive anymore – I’d lost everything and I couldn’t go on anymore.”

A former police emergency call handler, Paul had also been involved in a serious car crash and subsequently had a hip replacement.

His parents ‘dragged him’ to the doctors’ after he broke down in tears and he was given six months off work from his current role at United Utilities.

Paul said: “I’d been to the doctors’ a few times before but I felt as though I could handle it myself.

“My mum had been going through cancer treatment, so I didn’t want to give my parents anything else to worry about – they had their own issues to deal with, but they were brilliant.

“They didn’t have a clue what was going on, and my work didn’t have a clue what was going on either.

“I was very good at hiding it all – they knew about the stuff that was going on in my life, but they didn’t know that it had got to the stage where I didn’t want to be there anymore.

“When you’re talking to your bosses you automatically assume they will look down on you because there is a stigma around mental health, but my managers have been absolutely amazing.”

Sessions with a therapist paid for by United Utilities led to Paul taking up running in January – helping to turn his life around.

The former Culcheth High School pupil has since completed five 10km races and will tackle the English Half Marathon this weekend.

Paul said: “The therapist advised me to do things that I’ve always wanted to do but never been able to do.

“Because of my hip replacement, I’d never been able to go running before but that was what turned everything round.

“It was difficult to start off with – on my first ever run I lasted about 1km – but it changed everything in my mind, it gave me something to aim for and something to look forward to.

“When I was off work for six months, I was literally just sat in my room playing on the Xbox on my own.

“I thought ‘I’m sick of feeling like this, it’s been going on for too long’ – I got my trainers on and started running, and I’ve never looked back.

“I’m the happiest person that you could ever speak to now – it’s changed my whole life.”

His English Half Marathon run has raised more than £500 for the Mind mental health charity, with Katerina Tanti – founder of online running club Racecheck, of which Paul is a member – travelling to Warrington from London this weekend to cheer him on.

Paul is already signed up to complete another three half-marathons and a 10km as well as a 10-mile race.

And his message to those suffering from mental health problems is clear.

He added: “You can bottle it up but it will just get worse and worse – you need to talk to people.

“It’s been an absolutely massive weight off my shoulders – taking that step and talking about it is unbelievable.

“Don’t just sit at home – speak to people about it, because there genuinely is help out there.

“You don’t need to fight it on your own.”

THREE quarters of men in Warrington believe that their friends would not go to their GP if they were suffering from mental health problems.

Figures released to mark World Suicide Prevention Day showed that, in a survey carried out by Warrington Borough Council to which more than 500 male residents responded, 75 per cent thought it was unlikely that men they knew would seek help from their doctor.

Cllr Pat Wright, the council’s executive board member for statutory health and adult social care, said: “World Suicide Prevention Day reminds us that, behind the statistics, there are individual stories of those people who have questioned the value of their own lives.

“Taking a minute to reach out to someone, whether they are a close family member, friend, or even a complete stranger, can change the course of their life.

 “We know the devastating effects suicide has on families and communities and I would encourage everyone to consider that if you have a friend or family member you have been concerned about, take a minute to talk to them about how they are feeling and support them to access help.”

The council has teamed up with NHS Warrington Clinical Commissioning Group and North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to urge residents to reach out to their friends or family who they suspect are struggling with mental health problems.

Simon Hammond, the CCG’s commissioning manager for mental health, dementia and learning disabilities, said: “We can all play our part in looking out for each other and start these conversations to listen to the important things our friends, family or colleagues need to share.

“A simple ‘how are you feeling?’ to someone you’re concerned about could make the world of difference.

“Reassuring someone that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but that talking to someone when they have suicidal thoughts or feelings is in fact the strongest thing they can do, is a vital aspect of us all working together to tackle the stigma associated with this sensitive subject.”

Suicide is the leading cause of death in males under 45, with men three times more likely to take their own lives than women.

Mike Kenny, assistant director for Warrington at NWBH, added: “This World Suicide Prevention Day, we are teaming up with our local partners to send a strong message to people in Warrington that we all have a role to play in preventing suicide.

“Help is available from local mental health services but the first step to getting help is often opening up to someone close to you about how you are feeling. If you know someone who is struggling, reach out to them and ask them how they are doing. It could save a life.”