STEVE Carr has arguably been on an incredibly traumatic journey after losing his brother in a horrific crash on Akers Way in 1991, but he is putting himself through even more hardship as he walks the length of the country to raise awareness of mental health issues and homelessness.
Journeying from Land’s End to John O’Groats, on Thursday night he took a 20 mile detour from his route up through the Westcountry heading to the Midlands when he returned to his hometown of Swindon. After many nights under canvas and with just £100 to his name he received a warm welcome at Swindon Fire Station on Drove Road where he bunked down for the night alongside the fire engines.
The duty watch ensured he got a hot meal – as his food budget for each day of the challenge is just £3.
Steve’s life shattered in 1991 when his older brother Paul was killed in an horrific accident on Akers Way in Swindon. Paul was one of five young people to lose their lives when a car careered off the road and smashed into them. 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 challenge has no set route, which is a deliberate choice. He said: “I’m going with the unknown, which is exactly what happens to someone suffering from mental health issues or homelessness. I want to share my story, in the hope of showing people that you can recover, you can turn things around. It’s been a tough journey for me so far, but this walk is my way of starting afresh.”
He said the welcome he had received in Swindon had been absolutely outstanding, and he had enjoyed his break from having to sleep under canvas.
On Monday he will be setting off once again heading back on track to his route and northwards to Gloucester.
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 and fitness advisor to Wiltshire FRS, is a friend of Steve’s 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.”
You can follow Steve’s journey on his website www.mindcanyon.com.