Tackling mental health head on

PUBLISHED: 14:16 21 September 2006 | UPDATED: 10:54 06 May 2010

Steve Westwood – hoping to break down barriers

Steve Westwood - hoping to break down barriers

Steve Westwood has had his autobiographical novel published. Suicide Junkie covers his metamorphosis from a carefree child to someone to whom self harm and suicide attempts became almost an addiction . Having only recently been diagnosed with having bord

Steve Westwood has had his autobiographical novel published.

Suicide Junkie covers his metamorphosis from a carefree child to someone to whom self harm and suicide attempts became "almost an addiction".

Having only recently been diagnosed with having borderline personality disorder, severe depression and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), despite suffering from them for almost 15 years, Steve hopes his book will go some way to ending the stigma which is still attached to the words mental health.

"With BDD you become fixated with a particular part of your body, in my case my skin, and believe that everyone is looking at you and thinking how ugly you are.

"I used to believe it was a physical defect and thought people would notice it. I'd get very panicky before leaving the house and sometimes wouldn't even go outside.

"I'd ignore phone calls, ignore knocks on the door. I'd wear make-up to cover up my skin but be afraid of showering or going out in the rain in case the make-up came off.

"It seemed that a year of suffering from illnesses would lead to an overwhelming urge to self harm or lead to a suicide attempt.

"It all kind of piles up on you and you get to a point where the only way to get over that peak of the mountain is to try suicide. Then you are over it and you can come back down again.

"It's an addiction as it becomes a craving, a thought that's so strong that the only way to get rid of it is to do something about it.

"After suffering for so long I was ashamed to even tell anyone about my symptoms. I told my psychiatrist about it and it was at last diagnosed.

"I owe him a lot of thanks as he changed my medication to something that worked on the BDD and the symptoms were relieved.

"I still suffer with poor mental health but I have a lot of support from mental health professionals and from the medication I take each day.

"In writing my memoir I hope to help break down the stigma that victims of mental illness suffer and make my disorders household names.

"I felt that in my other books I always write about my feelings anyway and I felt I could write a book about my feelings and hope people would relate to it.

"The more unusual illness I faced was BDD which hasn't had a voice before and it is really quite unknown. I felt the need to discuss this."

Steve sent his manuscript to a number of publishers but had a few rejections.

However, after watching a clip on Channel 4's Richard and Judy show about Simon Pegler, who had started up a publishing group for mental health issues, Steve decided to contact him.

"I looked him up and found Chipmunka Publishing and had a look about what they published.

"I sent a copy of my work to him and he accepted it. I feel quite good to be part of his group now - he's doing really good work to help people with mental health issues.

"If I can get through to one person who says 'that's what I've got' then it's job done."

Steve has also found support from wife Ashley to whom he has been married for just under one year. They live in Letchworth GC.

"She is very understanding of my illnesses and is always giving me compliments on my looks. She will make me feel better.

"She backed me up writing this book in which I am very honest about my past.

"The book was something I had to do. I knew some of the revelations in the book would be hard for family and friends to read but I had a compulsion to do it."

Steve's book is available online at www.chipmunkapublishing.co.uk

Just go to the ebooks section and search for Suicide Junkie.

You can also read more about him at www.swestwood.com

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