Swindon firefighters have supported a local man on an epic cross-country trek to raise awareness of mental health issues and homelessness.
Steve Carr is walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats, with just a tent and £100 to his name and returned to his home town on 18 February with another 500 miles to go.
He spent the night at Drove Road fire station where Red Watch Manager Andy Edmonson ensured that he received a hot meal. Andy’s daily food budget of £3 and is being helped along his way by the kindness of strangers.
Steve’s life was shattered in 1991 when his older brother Paul, aged 18, died in a horrific accident on Akers Way in North Swindon when five youngsters playing on the open space beside the road lost their lives when a car careered off the road and smashed into them.
Killed alongside Paul on 13 September 1991 were Ian Thomas Liley, aged 7, Sheree Ann Lear, 8, Paula Jaynee Barnes, 16, Belinda Brown,18. They are all remembered in a memorial beside Akers Way.
At the age of 15, Steve had to deal with the loss of his brother and the effect of the trauma on his whole family. Since that time, he has experienced mental health problems, drug addiction and homelessness.
Now 39, he is in recovery, and the strength and determination that has brought him this far is now driving him to try and help others.
His walk challenge deliberately had no set route. He said: “I’m went into the unknown, which is exactly what happens to someone suffering from mental health issues or homelessness. I wanted to share my story in the hope of showing people that you can recover and you can turn things around. It’s was a tough journey for me, but this walk was my way of starting afresh.”
The effect of trauma on mental health is of concern to the Fire and Rescue Service nationally, and Wiltshire FRS has a number of support networks in place for its staff, including Trauma Risk Management (TRiM).
This approach ensures that firefighters and Control staff are supported following horrific incidents – such as the crash at Akers Way that killed Paul Carr. There are still firefighters working in Wiltshire who attended on that day, and it has never been forgotten by those who witnessed the scene first hand.
Shaun Dunham, a former firefighter and now health & fitness advisor to Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, is a friend of Steve and arranged his accommodation at Swindon fire station. He said: “There is a far better understanding of mental health issues these days, and of the effect of trauma on people’s wellbeing. But in 1991, when the accident happened in Akers Way, there wasn’t the support or counselling available. Steve knows his past decisions weren’t good ones, but he’s looking forwards now and I’m so pleased that we are able to help him.”
Follow Steve’s journey at Mind Canyon