A DETECTIVE told of the moment he sank to his knees in the throes of a mental breakdown.

Det Sgt Marcus Tawn now speaks to fellow police officers about the importance of looking after their mental health.

Yesterday, the Wiltshire Police officer of almost 30 years said his talks came born of personal experience.

In 2010 he suffered a mental breakdown and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

Speaking in Mental Health Awareness Week, Marcus, a 48-year-old dad-of-one, said: "I could feel my decision making wasn't quite right. I was going home and taking the pressures of work home with me, where I hadn't before. I was getting irritable at home. I could feel my identity changing. I wasn't communicating with my wife, I lost confidence.

"I went and did a stress questionnaire at work with the force occupational health specialist. I scored 19 out of 20.

"I walked back up the stairs and I sunk to my knees. It was like the cork had blown off the top of the bottle. My whole identity, the person I was up until then had gone."

"It felt lonely, difficult, wearying, concerning. I had to rebuild who I was. It was a very difficult place. My wife and child didn't know what was going on."

He signed off sick, but by his own admission returned to work too quickly: "It was different then, there was a certain stigma. Effectively what I did was I blagged it. Outwardly, I was very confident. Inwardly, when I went home I was in turmoil.

"Often with adverse mental health you will not see it, because people don't want you to see it.

"The worst thing you can ask someone with depression is 'Why?' Some days you just are."

In 2016 Malmesbury-born Marcus again suffered a breakdown. But this time he sought help from his GP and the force's occupational health unit. Now, he practices mindfulness and meditation: "It allows me to understand my thoughts better. I was able to get to grips with my condition.

"The police service is different now. We're able to have conversations now that we couldn't before because of that change of culture."

Top brass asked him to write a presentation, telling officers how to look after their own mental health and support families of those struggling with depression or anxiety.

To date, Marcus has given his talk to around 500 people across the region: "Hopefully I can give people a passport to put their hand up and say, 'I have a problem'."

The officer, who works out of Wiltshire Police's Devizes HQ, also serves as one of the force's mental health supporters.