Suicide Prevention Day: Howard of Pawsland author Mark Taylor shares his story - and what helped him heal

Mark Taylor has spoken about what led him to want to end his life - and how talking and getting his dog Howard helped turn things around

A knock on his car window was a life saving moment for Mark Taylor.

In a dark place, he had planned to take his own life, but it was that tap on the windscreen from a postman which stopped him - and sparked the start of his healing process.

Things changed even more for him when his partner bought him a dog - and it led to him penning a children’s book and bagging a six-book deal.

Now, ahead of World Suicide Prevention Awareness Day the 58-year-old has stressed the importance of reaching out and talking to people.

The children’s author told NationalWorld about his own journey, how he wrote his Howard of Pawsland books, as well as giving words of hope to others in the same situation.

Mark Taylor has told of how he had planned to take his own life, now he has gone on to write a children’s book and has a six-book deal.

Advertisement

‘I’d always said this would never happen to me’

Back in 2020, work stress and worry over his elderly mum Thelma’s care impacted on Mark’s mental health.

His mum had been diagnosed with dementia, and became seriously ill and bedridden.

Mark, from Farnham, Surrey, explained: “I was one of those people - and there’s plenty that say this would never happen to me. To be that sort of person is no shame in saying that you were like that. I was the typical guy that would go, yeah, I heard about this guy, or I heard about this person, but that wouldn’t be me. I wouldn’t let myself go down that path.

“But circumstances in life that we come across, sometimes you just can’t legislate for anything.”

Mark’s Mum, Thelma, 89 had wanted to stay out of a care home, but a fall had left her recovering in hospital with a broken hip. Around the same time Mark had taken a new job in sales.

Advertisement

He said: “Anybody that’s in sales will know, with sales comes some sort of pressure, you know, when you take a new job, they’ll tell you, the usual thing, don’t worry, there’s not too much pressure, but there always is pressure.”

So as well as juggling his new job he also had “one eye” on his mum, but after her fall things started to go downhill.

Thelma became bedridden and the worries over her health and her care were ever-present in Mark’s mind.

He said: “The pressure of work and the pressure of getting my mum sorted, it was getting worse and worse.

“I’ve got the most fabulous partner, my partner Annette is the best.

“My forever regret will be that I never talked to her earlier, just opened up about everything. I just felt if I was to say anything, I’d be a failure - and I couldn’t be a failure. ”

Advertisement

Mark Taylor and his beloved dog.

‘I said I’m in a really bad place’

The situation got to a point where Mark thought about taking own life, and one day while out for work he saw a place and said: “I’d got myself so low with everything that I thought I could just end it all.”

Mark explained that he knew at the time it wasn’t going to be that day, but the thought was still there.

Speaking of the harrowing moment he planned to end his life, he said: “The following week, I went back with the sole intention of doing it. I got there, I pulled the car over.”

But it was an intervention from a postman he knew which saved him. Mark explained: “I think to this day, there were two things really saved me that day.

Advertisement

“I sat there, I put my head over the steering wheel, and thought about the children, Annette and thought about my mum.

“And that minute to two minutes, I had my head over the steering wheel, saved my life. Because within that two minutes, I had a knock on the windscreen next to me. I looked over and pressed the button for my window to go down, it was a guy I went to school with - a postman on that route. And he was out of his way.”

When asked what was going on, Mark explained he was in a bad place, though he didn’t say what he had been planning to do.

Mark said: “I said I’m in a really bad place. And he said, Well, I can see that.

“It was almost a bit like someone just switching the light on really? You know, he said he stood there for a couple of minutes talking to me about things, talking about kids talking about my mum.

“It was like what was I about to do? I went home, and I opened up with Annette. And we both cried a lot together.”

Advertisement

Mark Taylor.

‘My first step in getting help was talking’

After speaking to Annette his journey to recovery began - on his partner’s prompting he went to see his GP. He also decided to leave his job.

He said: “The most simple thing in the world would have been to if I talked in the first place if I’d opened up to Annette or even if I’d opened up to a friend because I was afraid of opening up to Annette.

“I don’t think I would have ever gone down or thought about going down that path.

“My first step in getting help was talking, talking to my partner. My advice is always talk, but to go and see the GP for me, was a help.

Advertisement

“I felt when I went down there, I was already halfway there to feeling better, because I’d [already] opened up with Annette.

“Turns out, my blood pressure was through the roof. I knew I was suffering anxiety, and high blood pressure doesn’t help with anxiety as well.”

Mark says that while for some counselling might be the way forward, for him it was talking to those around him.

He said: “You know, when I opened up to them, some of my friends would just say, let’s go for a walk. We could walk for miles without saying anything. But that’s okay. Just to sort of clear the air walk is brilliant.

“For me my biggest help still is those same friends around me all the time. You know, and you sort of put the phone down you think sometimes that’s enough to have someone go is everything right? You know, do you want to talk? No, I’m fine. Okay, great.”

Mark Taylor.

Advertisement

‘He made me smile every day’

It was his dog Howard - a bearded collie, coming into his life that also brought a positive change. In what Mark describes as a “masterstroke” by Annette.

The couple who are both dog lovers had lost their previous two dogs to old age leaving them devastated. Mark said he told Annette “no more dogs”. But his partner had other plans.

He said: “I might as well talk to a brick wall! She arranged for us to go and see these puppies. We went down there and there was this one little puppy that I was absolutely in love with.

He continued: “We went back down and got in the pen and he came running over to us both. And she said, that’s it we’re having this puppy.

“He just made me smile every day and still does.”

Advertisement

It was while the couple were away for a week with Howard that Mark began his foray into writing a children’s book.

He said initially he thought about writing about a charity cricket team he ran, but it was Howard who proved to be his inspiration.

Mark said: “Howard was still only a young pup and every time he walks past me when I’m sitting on the veranda down by the seat, I started jotting down little things about him because he made me laugh.”

Annette suggested to Mark that he write a children’s book, and despite initially thinking he couldn’t he gave it a try.

He said: “Within about, I don’t know, must have been three, four hours of writing. I’d done the first book, virtually just a script. I showed it to Annette and she said: ‘I think I really like it.’”

But a chance trip to a shop, led him signing a deal with publishers Middleton Press for six books.

Advertisement

The process of writing was helpful to Mark during his healing process, he said: “The reason I was doing the book was because I thought it would help me, it would help my mind to sort of just focus on something else. But with the children’s books, it kind of totally consumed me in the end.

“And it was Howard, because Howard shows me so much love, it was like a joy to write about him. Every time I was writing, I was just thinking of him.”

Mark’s first book Howard of Pawsland on his Magical Journey to Whistledown was published in November 2021, the second Howard of Pawsland on his Magical Journey to Tastlybud earlier this year. While the third installment - Howard of Pawsland Fishlypool Adventure is due out next month. The books are available to buy from Amazon, Waterstones online and Middleton Press.

Howard.

Advertisement

‘Guys still tend to bury their heads in the sand’

For those who find themselves in similar situations Mark says it’s important to talk, advice he wished he had taken sooner himself.

He said there are some “great organisations” such as Mind, and CALM, where people can seek help. He added: “My advice would always be talk, talking it doesn’t cost a thing does it?

“I always thought I was quite an outgoing personality - but I couldn’t turn around the tell the person I loved the most that I was thinking of taking my own life.

“You don’t have to talk to your partner, you don’t have to talk to your best friend.

“Pick up the phone and find someone like Mind and talk to someone if you’re embarrassed to talk to anybody just pick up the phone and talk to a stranger say look, I’m in a really bad place, but I don’t know who to turn to.”

Advertisement

Men’s mental health is often an overlooked area, and Mark says “more awareness and more campaigns” are needed as well as getting people out into the community to talk about the issue.

He said: “You can get 11 guys in a football changing room on a Saturday they will talk about anything. You want to talk about mental health - they’ll probably say what’d you do last night?

“There’s a good possibility at least one of those people in that changing room might have gone through mental health issues. But they wouldn’t talk about it.

While he says there have been some good campaigns, many men still don’t acknowledge when they need help.

Mark said: “I still feel we guys still tend to bury their heads in the sand a little bit about it. I think, sadly and wrongly, we see it as a weakness. It’s not a weakness, it’s an illness.

“We’re happy to talk about a cold - if a bloke’s got a cold is three times worse than the woman’s! But talk about mental health - I don’t know why they shy away from that sort of thing, but for some reason we do. And it is wrong because you could actually be helping the guy right next to you.”

Advertisement

Mark Taylor wrote a children’s book.

Where can I go for help with my mental health?

There are a wide variety of places where you can access help for mental health, with specific services depending on what you may need.

MQ Mental Health Research, a charity which invests in scientific research into different mental health conditions and treatments, including a better understanding of suicide to find effective preventions, has compiled a list of resources.

For yourself:

In an emergency you should always dial 999. If you are feeling depressed or having suicidal thoughts you can always reach out to your GP or call NHS Direct on 111.

Advertisement

  • Samaritans- Samaritans are one of the most widely known helplines and are available 24/7 by calling 116 123. However, they offer more than just a telephone service. Their website offers advice and resources for people of all ages and you can email them on [email protected] at any time.
  • Papyrus - Papyrus offers targeted support for younger people through their ‘Hopeline’ which can be reached on 0800 068 4141, via email on [email protected] or via text on 07860 039 967. They also have a range of resources and advice on their website relating to dealing with young people at risk of suicide, including resources for mental health professionals.
  • SupportLine - Support Line offers confidential emotional support, particularly aimed at those who are isolated, at risk or vulnerable to abuse. They aim to help people develop health coping strategies through their telephone counselling service which can be reached on 01708 765 200.
  • Childline(for under 19s) -  Childline is a free, confidential service for anyone under the age of 19. Their website has advice for dealing with experiences, specifically tailored for children such as bullying and how to make friends. They can be contacted at any time for free on 0800 1111.
  • Nightline Association(for university students) - Most universities in the UK have a Nightline service which is run by student volunteers for other students. This peer to peer support service gives students a chance to talk about whatever is worrying them in confidence. You can find your university’s Nightline details by searching on the Nightline website.

For someone else:

Advertisement

In an emergency you should always dial 999.

  • SANE - The SANE helpline is open between 4pm and 10pm 365 days a year and can be reached on 0300 3047000. They offer emotional support not just for people experiencing depression, suicidal thoughts or other mental illnesses, but also for friends and family who need support or advice.
  • YoungMinds parents helpline - If you are worried about your child’s mental health (up to the age of 25) and want to speak to someone about it then Young Minds offer a helpline just for parents where you can get support and advice. Open Monday to Friday between 9:30am and 4pm on the number 0808 802 5544.
  • Rethink Mental Illness- If you are looking for some face to face support for your loved one then Rethink Mental Illness run a network of over 140 local support groups, offering a welcoming non-judgemental space where people can talk about their feelings with professionals and others. Find a local group on the Rethink website.
  • Samaritans - If you want to speak to a loved one because you are concerned about them, but are not sure how to do it, then Samaritans also offer online advice on how to reach out and the best way to support someone at risk of suicide.