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Former police officer speaks out over mental health after near-death experience

  • Aisling Creevey speaks to photographer Gareth Squance for ITV's Britain Get Talking campaign.

A former police officer from Cambridgeshire has spoken about his battle with post traumatic stress disorder to help encourage others to get help.

Gareth Squance spent 15 years in the force, but started suffering from panic attacks after being haunted by a series of incidents.

The most traumatic came in 2006 when his lungs collapsed after he fell while chasing a suspect.

Mr Squance said: “I remember laying beside him after catching him and slowly taking my last breaths; feeling everything close in around me, feeling my lungs shut down, my body shut down from my toes, my fingers going cold and numb.

“The last thing I thought, and I said it to my friend at the time, can you just ring my wife so I can hear her voice one more time?"

ITV News Anglia's Aisling Creevey speaks to former police officer Gareth Squance. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The father of two was resuscitated but post traumatic stress disorder began to plague his recovery.

Mr Squance added: "These panic attacks would start coming all the time; when you're doing silly things, driving into work, an ambulance going past, a flashing light, a loud noise, a train going past.

“It would trigger panic. I started to become a prisoner to depression and darkness. I was aware that I was in trouble, but I wasn't sure why."

Gareth now uses nature and photography to help deal with his condition.

He said: “Life changes and it changes very rapidly. That includes everything around me, but there's things that are permanent.

“Things like the tree, the weather, the sun rising and the sun setting. To me, that's my permanence and that has become my foundation. Within that, I know that I draw so much pleasure from a sunrise and the warmth on my face. I can always re-ground from that."

Former police officer Gareth Squance uses nature to help cope with post traumatic stress disorder. Credit: ITV News Anglia