Suicide survivor Steve is mental health champion
Steve Foyster, manager of Norwich’s Christian resource centre – Revelation – has become an ardent champion for mental health sufferers after his life was marked and changed following the ‘miraculous’ survival of an attempted suicide.
Sandie Shirley reports
Steve jumped from the top of a multi-storey city car park 30 years ago. That terrible event, after a year of pain, loss and depression, has forged empathy and concern for others that is being outworked decades later as the scars have healed and life is restored.
Steve hosts regular evenings at Revelation that look at the thorny issues of mental health such as suicide. The events are a platform for understanding and shared experience, attracting eminent authorities and those of faith and no faith.
Steve has also talked about his experiences with 60 junior doctors as part of a training seminar and recently trained as a peer tutor with the Recovery College - part of the Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust.
As a tutor, he re-tells his story of desperation that has turned to hope and purpose, to enlighten small groups of sufferers. He recalls the sorrows and joys; the therapies and the hindrances, so others can relate and open up as a way of healing.
Now he is busy finishing a book about his life story as a suicide survivor and drawing a parallel with Christ’s suffering. “I wrote the first half in two days, a year after my attempted suicide – it was very cathartic,” says Steve.
His failed suicide meant six months in hospital with eight weeks in traction as he recovered from a punctured lung, multiple ankle fractures, a ruptured sciatic nerve and vertebrae compaction.
I was told I would never walk again or have children but my survival and turnaround has been hailed as miraculous by a former GP, explains Steve who has since remarried and has two grown-up sons.
Steve’s mental health began to improve when he found someone who would listen to him. “The weekly one-to-one sessions with a student psychiatric nurse were very beneficial,” he says.
Meanwhile his Christian faith developed and when he was confirmed and later joined a small church Bible study he learnt about the suffering of others. “I realised everyone had been broken at some time in their lives,” says Steve.
“Over the years I have been helped by hundreds of people. The many things that have happened to me cannot have been co-incidental – they have changed my path so maybe I am now meant to be in a position to help others.”
Steve doesn’t draw a veil over his past. “It is incredibly important to raise awareness of mental ill health and break down the taboos which still exist. The night before I jumped I was waiting for a bus at Castle Meadow (Norwich). I had walked that street thousands of times before but I did not know where home was although home is where the heart is; I felt completely lost with no security and no boundaries. I no longer had the capacity to love anyone, least of all myself.”
Continues Steve: “Mental health issues never leave completely but I am learning to stay away from the ‘black hole’ of past trauma with the help of cognitive therapy and the use of an eight-week Mindfulness course about choosing to live in the moment – which is essentially what Jesus asks us to do.”
Steve trained as a book seller but spent six years working for Suffolk Social Services prior to becoming manager of Norwich’s SPCK shop at Pottergate, 12 years after his suicide attempt. “I had to walk past the car park where I attempted to take my own life but I figured God knew I was ready to face the daily emotional reminder – timing is always important for what we do,” says Steve.
Come and hear Steve’s story - October 5
Steve is hosting an evening at Revelation Christian Resource Centre, Redwell Street, Norwich on Wednesday October 5 from 6.30 – 8pm. The event is entitled 'Cry; How to avoid the void’. Steve will tell his story starting at 6.45. which should last about 30 minutes, with time for questions and discussion afterwards. The event is free of charge and tea and coffee will be available before the talk at £1-50 per head. If you woud like to attend please contact Revelation to reserve a seat on (01603) 619731 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured: Steve Foyster at the Revelation Christian resource centre in Norwich.