Man who tried wild swimming 'during darkest hours' says it helped saved his life

A man from Neath Port Talbot has spoken about how wild swimming has helped save his life after he decided to go swimming every day for a month.

David Bryan from Tonmawr has lived with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for many years, but it came to a climax in November last year when he attempted to take his own life.

The effects of lockdown and the coronavirus pandemic had a major impact on the 35-year-old's his life and he said he couldn't see a way forward.

He decided to try wild swimming during his "darkest hours", which he said helped save his life. Over the last year, there has been a significant rise in its popularity with people deciding to take a swim in their local river, beach or lake.

With swimming pools remaining closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, bathers, including David, have braved the cold and have continued to go for an endorphin-releasing dip during the winter months.

The effects of lockdown and the pandemic had a major impact on his life

He said: "I am originally from Cornwall and my mum still lives there so I have been swimming in the sea all my life.

"I went to stay there with my mum after I attempted to take my life in November."I saw a documentary about the Dutch athlete Wim Hoff who advocates wild swimming and I decided to give it a go as part of my recovery."The mental health industry is very out of date and there is not always the help that you need. It is not spoken about enough and a lot of people feel uncomfortable talking about their own mental health."When David returned to Wales, he decided to take his first dip in the Pelenna river, near his home in Tonmawr."I went up and it was quite shallow, and it was like having a very cold shower," he said.

"But it was amazing and everyone involved in the community I have found online have been so supportive.

David says the long term effects have been "so positive"

"I decided to throw myself into it and pledged to take a dip a day during January.

"The long term effects and impact on my mental health have been so positive.

A study, published by the British Medical Journal, discovered that regular swimming sessions in the wild, results in a post-swim "high", triggered by the release of beta endorphins, dopamine and serotonin.

David said, "I get a feeling of everything washing down the river. All the anxiety, all the depression, all the worrying thoughts.

"I get a lot of flashbacks and there are days when my anxiety will go through the roof and it can ruin a whole day, but getting used to the cold and the swimming doesn't give me time for anxiety. The only thing running through my brain is that I am freezing."For someone who has suicidal tendencies it has the opposite effect. All I can think about is the need to stay alive."

David has set up a Facebook support group where he shares videos of his swims.

He said that the support he gets from the wild swimming community has been a great help for him.Many people across the UK have turned to swimming over the past year with the Outdoor Swimming Society (OSS) seeing an increase of 36% in their membership which now stands at 136,000. "There are so many people out there with stories to tell," said David.

"From recovering drug addicts, to people like me. It helps to give a stabilising effect on people's lives.

"There is the build up to it, getting excited, then it is so cold, and then there is the calm thatwashes over you."It is like a form of meditation".

Read the Wild Swimming Code guidelines for tips on how to stay safe in the water.

Samaritans are available day and night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at, or visit to find your nearest branch.

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