Glasgow & West Scotland

How a grim discovery changed my life forever

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Media captionCraig Russell wants to use his experience to raise mental health awareness

Craig Russell knows all about battling mental illness. His own experience has its roots on what seemed like an unremarkable day two years ago.

The 33-year-old's life changed forever when he came across the body of a teenager who had taken his own life in woods near his family's home.

The personal trainer, who lives in East Kilbride, tried to save the 18-year-old man but there was nothing he could do.

Craig tried to carry on as normal after he found the body, near his parents' house in Stonehouse, South Lanarkshire.

But four months later he had a breakdown and had to find a way to re-build his own shattered life.

Craig now wants to use his experience to raise mental health awareness.

He is encouraging others to seek help and find someone to talk to before their issues turn into a mental health problem.

The former soldier had been returning home to his parents' house when he made the grim discovery in the woods.

He tried to help until the paramedics arrived but the teenager was pronounced dead at the scene.

"As soon as I looked at him I knew he was gone," says Craig.

"I went back into the house, washed my hands and made my lunch as normal."

Craig says he does not know if he was in shock for months afterwards.

But the warning signs were there.

He says he was becoming easily irritated and snapping at those closest to him, which was out of character.

Four months after finding the young man, Craig was working as a solar panel fitter.

He suddenly broke down and started crying. That was when he decided to seek help.

'It is a constant battle'

After his breakdown, Craig sought help from counsellors who diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He now takes medication for depression.

Craig said this helped him to feel happier and "more level-headed" but he still has "odd spells" and down days which he believes will always happen now.

"It just takes over your body and you're shattered, you battle with yourself mentally and it is constantly draining," he says.

Craig has always been interested in fitness and now runs his own personal training business, as well as working in a gym in Glasgow.

He says this helps, but some days he cannot face being out of the house.

"Sometimes I need to come into my work and put on a brave face, but deep down inside I'm fighting with my mind. It is a constant battle and it is exhausting," he says.

At the end of last year Craig started sharing his experiences to raise awareness of mental health issues and encourage others to seek help.


You can seek help for mental health issues in Scotland by contacting:

  • MIND: 0300 123 3393
  • SAMH: 0141 530 1000
  • Samaritans: 116 123

He posts videos on social media and has organised events for charities such as Mind and the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH).

"People have messaged me to thank me for sharing my story, especially guys, it seems to be that guys don't talk about it as much as they should do," he says.

He is hoping to become a mental health speaker so he can continue to help others.

Craig says the key is finding someone to talk to.

He says: "It may be difficult to hassle those closest to you but you have to try to find someone you trust or speak to a GP or mental health charity."

Mental illness has been "hidden away until recently", he says, and he is aiming to highlight his story to others.

"You're just lost in your own mind and you don't know how people can help you," he says.

Craig is calling for more support for mental health charities and would like to see more groups and drop-in centres where people can meet and openly discuss their problems.

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