Q&A session between Sarah Townsley & Steve Kirby. 

You underwent a very traumatic experience can you explain a little further?

Physically I was very lucky. A few stitches in my head, hyper extended limbs and lots of bruising. It was my mental health that suffered massively after a hydro pressure test failed. Flash backs started that very same night. I would re-live the whole thing. The smell of water would again put me back there. My way to deal with it was to have a few beers to help me sleep.  This did not work and only made things worse.

How has this impacted your mental health?

I was the guy that didn’t believe depression was real. I used to think people used it as a excuse to stay off work but I was in a dark place, angry and agitated. I had no time for my kids or partner and would find my self crying and thinking it would be easier for them if I wasn’t here. My partner persuaded me to go see a doctor. I was told I was suffering with anxiety depression and PTSD. I was referred to a therapist who help me understand but when my quarter was up with the NHS I was told I had to take medication and try to put it behind me.

I was still lost in my mind and did not want medication.

What has the experience taught you in terms of skills for mental health?

I started studying the mind and human behaviour. Reading everything i could on anxiety depression and PTSD. Because of the experience I came across self hypnosis, cognitive behavioural therapy and Neuro linguistic programming. These skills helped me to see my accident from a different perspective. They helped me realise it was my thoughts that was causing me to feel the way I was feeling and I had full control of my thoughts.

You have begun building new skills in mental health why?  And how can you use these in the workplace?

I now use these skills to help people who are struggling with anxiety and depression,  confidence issues or addictions. I also visit sites and share my story. Helping to create a better understanding and awareness of wellbeing and mental health within the workplace.

Do you feel safety performance is affected by mental health issues?

I believe safety performance is definitely affected by mental health issues.  We had no training in hydro pressure testing. Looking back none of us wanted to lose our job. If I had of refused to do the work I would have been replaced with someone who was willing.  I have witnessed many guys over the years use machinery they have no training in or do a job they maybe should not be doing. But anxiety about losing your job puts pressures on people .

What kind of mental health prevention and support did you have within the organisation that you worked for during the accident?

My accident happened in 2011. I was absent from work for over six months and was offered no help with regard to mental health. I now totally understand mental health and the pressure we put on ourselves aswel as the pressures of home life and work.  I now use this to get companies talking. To put people first. To give people the opportunity to speak out. I believe more people are aware of mental health but as humans will struggle to reach out.  The more we can talk about the issues of mental health the more people will have a greater understanding.

OSI provide mental health solutions for the workplace, how do you feel this can benefit the workforce? 

The work Omniscient Safety does and the courses they offer to help with mental health and wellbeing in the workplace is essential. The training they offer can prevent companies putting people in situations like we found ourselves in.  Luckily I survived and the client did not have a fatality, but we was lucky. Many people are still killed at work, many more die from work related illness due to not using PPE correctly and many die of suicide due to mental health and pressures of work. Omniscient safety want to make a difference just as I do. If my story saves one life it is worth sharing.


Sk Lifecoach UK Ltd

Sarah Townsley OSI