Convicted Preston criminal overcame schizophrenia and life sentence to turn life around

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Martin Sullivan admits he had a troublesome upbringing.

Having personal issues from a young age, his childhood years soon spiralled out of control, not only with his mental health – but with the law.

The youngster was put in boarding school, started carrying knives around with him and then from the age of 15, his prison journey began.

Martin Sullivan, 41, who lives in Lostock Hall, said: “My mum was a prostitute so growing up I had issues. I had depression, mental illness, and had made suicide attempts.

“I started carrying knives and was in and out of prison from the age of 15. I went to boarding school and at the age of 15 my prison journey began.

“I had a four year sentence, then 9 months, 11 months, 16 months and then I got a life sentence.”

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HMP Liverpool

Sullivan was then sent to HM Prison Liverpool, in Walton.

Having spent some time there, things only got worse.

It was inside HM Prison Liverpool where he attacked an inmate and a prison officer, leading to Sullivan’s transfer to high-security psychiatric hospital, Ashworth Hospital.

He added: “I went to Walton Prison. I attacked an inmate and prison officer. Then went to Ashworth, got on the roof and caused £50,000 worth of damage.

“I was put on medication and diagnosed with paranoia and schizophrenia. It was then when I heard no voices anymore.

“I received therapy and went on to serve my seven years at Ashworth.”

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General view of Ashworth high-security Hospital, in Maghull, Merseyside

Schizophrenia in the UK

Schizophrenia is a severe long-term mental health condition. It causes a range of different psychological symptoms.

According to the NHS, symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, muddled thoughts and changes in behaviour.

Doctors often describe schizophrenia as a type of psychosis, meaning that the person may not always be able to distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from reality.

The estimated prevalence across all ages and populations in the UK is 0.7 per cent – according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

In the UK, the lifetime prevalence of schizophrenia and schizophrenia-related disorders is approximately 14.5 per 1000 people, although there is considerable variation between estimates.

Most experts believe the condition is cause by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

How Sullivan turned his life around

It was clear that Sullivan’s mind was in a different place to where it once was.

He stopped ‘hearing voices in his head’ and after serving his time in prison, he made a conscious effort to turn his life around.

And he certainly has.

“I then went to Guild Lodge [Secure Mental Health Facility] for four years and went to college where I got two diplomas,” Sullivan continued.

“I went to a care home to be released into the community.

“I started at a business for work experience. I went to the House of Lords where I was presented with the Positive Future Award.

“I work as an advisor for the prison service and I work with the armed police in schools where I talk to the kids about the dangers of knife crime. I also help with pre-CQC inspections.

“I also work with the suicide awareness team and work and advise with the NHS in seclusion treatment of patients. I’ve made a DVD on this which has now been rolled out throughout the NHS.

“I’ve also done talks at colleges, schools, universities, conferences and prisons. I’ve just been hired as a support worker at Guild Lodge Psychiatric Hospital and I sit on interviews as well to help hire new NHS staff.

“I’ve just passed my Level 2 Counselling and the police are currently doing a DVD with me on my life that can be shown in schools as well – and I’m considering doing my nursing.”

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Martin Sullivan was diagnosed with paranoia and schizophrenia

Sullivan’s advice

Sullivan believes mental health in Lancashire is only getting worse – and that everyone has issues in some way.

His main advice for people is to keep going.

“Everyone has some form of problem. It’s not always extreme, but can be normal depression.

“Mental health in Lancashire is getting worse.

“I would say to people do not give up.

“Look at me, I had a life sentence and thought I would never get out. Do not give up.”

 

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