Luton firm help bring suicidal Dave back from the brink

Dave Lee
Dave Lee

An ex-builder driven to the brink of suicide by depression, drugs and binge-drinking is now travelling the world helping others suffering from mental health problems.

In 2008 father-of-two Dave Lee, 48, was so low he drove to a roundabout intending to smash his works van into a barrier in Brighton.

Dave Lee

Dave Lee

But something prevented Dave from doing it – thinking about his six-year old daughter Kitty.

Knowing that he couldn’t leave his little girl fatherless, Dave turned round and went home where he sought professional help.

Once he felt able, he then contacted Luton-based global jobsite Randstad after hearing about its Returning To Work programme helping people bounce back from long-term absences.

New mothers, those made redundant, suffering from mental illness, retirees and ex-prisoners are among thousands finding new jobs.

Dave is now an inner wellbeing consultant and co-founded A Deeper Understanding, a company providing support and urging employers to discuss mental health.

He also wrote The Hairy Arsed Builders Guide to Stress Management which tackles stereotypes in the construction industry.

“Mental health naturally occurs, “ said Dave, of Newhaven, East Sussex. “We are only one thought away from either happiness or sadness. I took anti-depressants for 30-odd years but I came to see I wasn’t depressed, I just had sad thoughts occasionally, it was a massive lightbulb moment.

“Employers need to be able to see what connects rather than separates us. Someone with mental health problems can be a positive influence in the workplace.”

Aged five, Dave moved to Glasgow with his father when his parents divorced. He quickly learnt to fight and was nicknamed “Dave Rage”.

He then moved to Brighton’s notorious Whitehawk estate to live with his mother but was put into care at 13.

By 15, Dave was locked up for theft, drug dealing, car crime and assault.

Six years later, with his offending spiralling out of control, a probation officer offered Dave a once in-a-lifetime move to Windsor, Berks and a job on a building site.

“At 21, I arrived on the site and was given a broom to sweep up the yard. Within a few years I became a builder, then a foreman and contracts manager overseeing multi-million pound projects.

“I got married and had two beautiful children. We had a four bedroom house and a 4X4. But I could never escape the feelings of my childhood.”

Dave drunk excessive amounts of cider and spirits as well as smoking strong cannabis.

When his wife threatened to leave him, Dave says he “chose his drink over his family”.

He added: “I would drink to fix my feelings. I had a lot of insecurities. From the age of six, I was told that I would never be any good and that I would end up in jail. And they were right.

“My wife would ask why I couldn’t just have two drinks? Two was never enough, I wanted to blackout.

“I left home for three months and one day I woke up and said: ‘I can’t deal with life any more’.

“When I drove to the roundabout in Brighton, it symbolised my life - all the exits were there in front of me but I couldn’t escape. I was lost. There were several times that I wanted to hit crash barriers.

“On the outside, I had everything but on the inside I had nothing. Then I sought professional help.”

Mark Bull, CEO of Randstad UK, said: “Returning to work is one of the most important steps in getting back to normal after major life events.

“Whether it’s following mental illness, workers who’ve had a long absence face similar challenges. It’s important to know your rights and be prepared for the change.”