Meet 36-year-old Rocco Hawkins, a self-employed plasterer who once considered taking his own life after an assault in February 2019 on the street left him with a host of mental health issues.
Sharing the incident with The Epoch Times, via email, Hawkins said: “I was knocked unconscious and my head was stamped on and punched. I was left with a fractured skull, bleed [sic] on the brain, half a tooth ripped out, fractures to neck and spine.”
After the attack, Hawkins was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD) and was upset with the thought that he would be this way for the rest of his life moving forward. After four weeks of staying at the hospital, Hawkins, who lived alone, started to feel anxious and wasn’t able to go for a walk, as he couldn’t look back due to the neck brace he was wearing.
Additionally, to deal with the constant flashbacks of the incident, Hawkins resorted to alcohol and thus began drinking a lot. During this period of time, he didn’t even have access to meet his son, as he was suffering from mental health issues. After four months on a neck brace, Hawkins shared that he had had enough and didn’t find any purpose in living anymore. That’s when he attempted to take his own life. “I went completely numb and walked up the bridge, climbed over the railing and don’t remember having any feelings whatsoever,” Hawkins said.
However, that day things took an unexpected turn, as two policemen grabbed him to safety. This changed his life forever. Following the incident, Hawkins spent four months in a mental health hospital, where he was on medication and received support from medical professionals. Alluding to the four months at the hospital, Hawkins recalled that it was initially difficult for him to accept their assistance as he struggled opening up to them. Then, with time, he told them everything, and thus they were able to devise a plan to help him. “I believe the professionals saved my life and I can’t thank them enough,” he said.
In January this year, Hawkins came out feeling like a new man. “I walked out the door closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and told myself that my life begins today,” Hawkins said. After leaving the hospital, the father felt motivated to change and create hope among people who contemplated committing suicide, and thus began his mission.
“I decided to do the suicide prevention quotes on bridges and also leave personalized letters of my story,” Hawkins said. “I was numb whilst on the bridge, so I thought the quotes could be the distraction someone needs to snap out of the mindset they are in.”
When The Epoch Times asked Hawkins what urged him to start a movement like that, he said it was the words of someone who had commented on his Facebook status when he asked for help. “A person who I didn’t expect to, but told me to go to a bridge and jump, that I don’t dare and that I do things for attention. Those words have stuck with me and motivated me,” he said.
He added: “I thought if that can be said to me then it can be said to others.” He then decided to create a change.
Since the inception of his undertaking to support people, Hawkins, who has now been sober for 10 months, has covered 15 bridges pinning suicide-prevention quotes across the county and directly helped save the lives of seven people.
He shared that people are constantly getting in touch with him to ask him for advice when they are feeling low and attacked by suicidal thoughts. Hawkins is able to help support them and offer them some techniques from what he learned at the hospital until help arrives at the spot.
Sharing the positive impact that his handwritten letters have on people, Hawkins said: “I had one lady message me and thanking me so much because I saved her son’s life. He went back home with my letter in his hand and told his mom that it saved him.”
For Hawkins, mental health awareness is very significant as we currently face an unprecedented crisis. He strongly believes that people need to open up and share what they are going through. “A problem shared is a problem halved,” Hawkins explained. As he visits bridges across the county, the good Samaritan has had people talking about themselves and sharing how things have changed for them. Additionally, he also runs a Facebook group called “Bridges of Hope,” where people share their different experiences openly and offer support to each other.
Life has truly taken a 360-degree turn for Hawkins, as he has gone from being 18 stone at the hospital to 14 stone and completed over nine marathons and cycled over 700 miles during this pandemic. He also shared that he feels stronger than ever and has gone from hating the people in this world to embracing the new and exciting things in his life. Hawkins, who is still involved in alcohol recovery sessions, has also been offered the vacancy to become a peer mentor.
Sharing his personal philosophy that keeps him motivated and strong, Hawkins said, “It is the urge to put a huge dent in the stigma that surrounds mental health and to make people aware that it’s completely ok to not be ok.”
He concludes by stating that he wants to make people aware “that change is possible and I am living proof of that.”
Below are some more signs that Hawkins has pinned across bridges
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