Hartlepool community champion starts support group for condition that drove him to brink of suicide

A Hartlepool community champion has started a new support group for sufferers of an agonising condition after it drove him to the brink of suicide.

Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 4:45 am

Stephen Picton, who has helped raise thousands of pounds for different causes and charities over the years, was diagnosed with fibromyalgia earlier this year.

It means he suffers severe pain all over the body, chronic fatigue, spasms and ‘brain fog’ short term memory and speaking problems.

Due to the severity of the daily pain and the lack of local support for the condition, Stephen attempted to take his own life.

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Stephen Picton (left) is presented with keys to the unit at The Arches by Tom Feeney. Picture by FRANK REID

But after recovering, he has launched new group Fibro-Connect TS to help put sufferers from across the region in touch with each other to provide support to each other and raise awareness.

Stephen, 50, who is an independent Hartlepool borough councillor for Foggy Furze ward, said: “When I was at my lowest ebb there was nobody there that I could talk to about how I felt or the pain.

"My plan now is to be that person that somebody can turn to.”

He was struck down with mystery severe pains and about a year ago and was in bed for six weeks.

Roseberry Topping, near Great Ayton.

It took numerous tests before he was diagnosed. Regrettably, the condition forced him to give up work as a taxi driver and with town charity Poolie Time Exchange.

Stephen said: “It just totally wiped me out. It was uncontrollable pain that I woke up to every morning.

"You just pray to sleep forever because when you’re asleep you can’t feel it.

"I tried to take my own life and ended up in West Park mental health unit for three weeks.

"I love life but it was the pain I was trying to run away from. But I have come back fighting stronger.”

So he started Fibro Connect-TS.

Its Facebook page has over 300 members and Stephen has already been in touch with and helped people who were also depressed over the condition.

"Even if it saves just one life it is worth it,” he said. “We are connecting and helping people right across Teesside.

"It is needed.”

He has just collected the keys for a unit at the Arches, in Park Road, that is planned to open early next year.

Stephen added: “It’s where people with fibromyalgia will be able to come in, have a chat and we can point them in the right direction for other help and support.

"It will educate families as well about it so they know mam or dad is not just having a bad day or being lazy.

"It is also about connecting the dots between fibromyalgia and mental health.”

One room will be a quiet room with relaxation and massage chairs. The group also aims to have a leaflet about fibromyalgia in every doctor’s waiting room and hospital in the area.

To help get the new office ready, Stephen together with fellow fibromyalgia sufferers will battle through the pain barrier to climb Roseberry Topping on Sunday, November 21.

Around 25 people have signed up to raise money for the group.

Anyone who wants to support Fibro-Connect TS can give money online at gofundme.com.

People with suicidal thoughts should contact The Samaritans for immediate help on 116 123 or the NHS on 111.

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