Thomas: “I’d not seen the signs I was depressed… but I’d have recognised them in a colleague”

Thomas Warner, who works as Service Improvement Manager with Bedfordshire FRS, shares his experience of attending our Reset Programme and how he’s adapted his lifestyle since.

Thomas Warner had always thought of himself as someone who was ‘mental health aware’ – and felt confident he would have known if his wellbeing was beginning to decline, having previously noticed signs in his friends and colleagues.

However, when he went through a challenging time in his personal life, coupled with post-Covid fatigue, he never suspected the way he was feeling was a sign he was living with depression.

It was only when Thomas, who works as Service Improvement Manager with Bedfordshire FRS, spoke to his Occupational Health team that he was told he needed help – and that’s when he called us.

“I got Covid in 2022, around the September,” says Thomas. “I remember feeling exhausted in the evening and then a few hours into work the next day, I knew I really didn’t feel right. It floored me for weeks in the end.

“It came at a really difficult time. I’d just got divorced, in fact it was finalised just a few weeks before, and I’d lost my grandmother earlier in the year too, who I was very close to.”

He adds: “It took about three weeks before I tested negative and I remember I went to walk into town and I could barely manage it – it was an easy walk and one that would never normally bother me.

“I was able to do a phased return to work, but I wasn’t able to do any hobbies in the evenings – one of which is music. It meant I wasn’t able to take part in an activity which had always been a bit of a coping mechanism for me, for my mental health.

“I later found out I’d been living with post-Covid fatigue.

“In the November I went to Occupational Health and one of the mental health nurses asked me to fill in a questionnaire. She said, based on the answers I’d given, I was moderately to severely depressed.

“I’d not seen the signs. When she said it, it was obvious, but I think I’d been refusing to see it in myself. I felt that I was reasonably mental health aware, and had I seen the same signs in a friend or colleague I would have said something. It was a bit of a shock.

“I was offered a course of counselling and someone recommended I get in touch with the Charity. I’d heard of the Reset Programme already, and so I enquired about it.”

Our Reset Programme offers beneficiaries the opportunity to develop and improve their resilience and overall mental fitness, with a programme of workshops and activities tailored to individual needs.

“The whole process, from picking up the phone and talking through my options, to my week there, it was just superb,” says Thomas.

“I went in the January, which was great because it gave me something to focus on. January is a terrible month, so it was a goal then.

“It was all very easy, you get information on exactly what to expect beforehand, as well as often speaking ahead of time with one of the team you’ll be working with there.

“I went in with an open mind and there were certain things which I didn’t think would be for me, like the mindfulness walk and Tai Chi, but actually they were brilliant. The whole team were brilliant, from the therapists to the people who serve the food.”

Since his visit, Thomas has adapted his lifestyle to ensure he continued practicing the tools he learned there – including setting himself small, manageable goals.

“At the end of it I was determined it wouldn’t be a one-off thing, so I set myself a schedule to keep making goals when I got home, to practice what I’d learned there every day,” he adds. “Just small goals like a week without fizzy drinks, or some exercise one day. Even as small as not having a pudding at work.”

As a way of saying thank you for the support he received, Thomas joined his retired colleague Andy Peckham to fundraise for us with a walk along Hadrian’s wall, where they raised more than £4,600.

You can still donate to the pair here.

If you feel you’d benefit from our health and wellbeing support, you can call our Support Line on 0800 389 8820, make an enquiry online or visit the ‘Access Support’ tab in My Fire Fighters Charity.

And remember – if you’re feeling suicidal, you can call our Crisis Line 24 hours a day on 0300 373 0896.