Getting on a train to Blackpool in the early hours of the morning, Actor Mark Newsome had hit rock bottom, battling with depression and thoughts of taking his own life. Standing on Blackpool beach, he picked up the phone to his best mate Will, who convinced him to stay.
We shared a call with Mark to hear how he turned his story into a play, why he’s supporting CALM by running Manchester 10K, and how he’s getting comfortable outside of the box.
Growing up in Oldham, Mancunian lad Mark never really felt he fitted in. Outed in Asda to his family, who didn’t know he was gay, Mark has struggled with his identity and mental wellbeing since he was a child, only recently being diagnosed as autistic. In 2017, after years of finding things difficult, it all came to a head:
“Since I was a young child I’ve struggled. I didn’t know I was autistic until I was diagnosed about three years ago and eventually everything got on top of me. I was really depressed, dealing with substance abuse and ended up going to Blackpool to take my own life. That was a really dark time.”
Pulling him out of the hopeless headspace he was in, Mark’s mate Will answered his cry for help – a phone call where they chatted about all the reasons why Mark should stay. Finally, Will joked “Blackpool, what a shit place to die”.
With that, Mark changed his mind. He looked for professional support and has been on antidepressants since, working through a difficult road to recovery and making the decision to quit drink and drugs:
“After that, I sought the help I deserve. I started being more open about my mental health and things changed from that point, not just in terms of my career as an actor, but also as a person. I went to the doctors and they prescribed the right meds. I still go to support groups and I’m open about how I’m feeling and my journey online. I’m in a good place today, but it’s been a rocky road to get here.”
After sharing his story with playwright and friend Phil Pearson, the pair met weekly in a local cafe and worked together to create the one man show Blackpool, What A Shit Place To Die. Mark was blown away, not just by the play’s success, but by the impact it had on the audience:
“It became more than just a play, it was a saviour for some people. They watched the show, or read my story online and contacted me personally to say that they related it to what they were going through and thanked me for being so open and honest about things. There was a guy who was thinking of ending his life. He told me he’d read my story and it stopped him.
“Art can change people’s lives. It’s not brain surgery or anything like that, but art can have such a positive impact on people and the struggles they may be going through. They see something that resonates with them when they watch a show and I’m really passionate about that.”
Realising the power his play had on people, Mark’s been moved to do more through his work as an actor. Next on his list? Taking on the Manchester 10k to raise money for CALM and shine a light on our life-saving services. Mark wants more people to pick up the phone when they feel shit – he knows the difference it can make, having personally used the CALM helpline:
“I’m very lucky to have a great support network that keeps me on the right track, but CALM has also helped me when I’ve used the helpline before. If you feel isolated or you’re struggling with your mental wellbeing, reach out. You never need to go through it alone, there’s always someone there. Suicide is still the biggest killer of men and it’s absolutely tragic that people feel it’s the only option.”
Mark knows all too well what it feels like to be in that emotional space. That’s why he’s urging you to tell someone when you’re finding things tough, believing things can get better:
“I think personally, when you’re in that moment, you don’t want to die, you just want the feelings to go away. For me, I didn’t want to die, I just wanted to get away from the angst and pain that I was in. When I reached out to Will in that critical moment, I just needed to hear another human voice at the end of the phone.”
Finally, Mark has come to realise that the things that make us different don’t mean we’re on our own. Giving the middle finger to bottling things up, he’s determined to continue to speak up about suicide, encouraging everyone to find support when they’re struggling:
“I grew up feeling like an alien, but our differences are beautiful. Why try and fit in if you’re not made to fit in? Find your people, because you’re not alone, there are so many people out there who are struggling with their mental health and honestly things will get better.”
Looking for support after reading Mark’s story? The CALM helpline and webchat is open every day from 5pm until midnight. It’s free, confidential and run by trained professionals. Whatever you’re going through, you can get it off your chest.
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