Jonathan Bellamy spoke with author Rachael Newham about her experiences: how she has survived two attempts on her life, through to launching a mental health charity and releasing her first book.

Rachael Newham
Rachael Newham

Rachael Newham was just six when she had her first suicidal thought. Over the following decade life would become increasingly fraught with anxiety, depression and self-harm. Before her 18th birthday she would try to take her own life twice.

Rachael has now written a book called 'Learning To Breathe'. It's her story of her journey with depression, and how God can rescue us from even the most desperate of places. Jonathan Bellamy spent time with her hearing her story.

Jon: Six years old is such a young age to have your first suicidal thought. Can you give us a bit of an idea what your early life was like, and what brought on that suicidal thought?

Rachael: My early life was really good. I had a loving home, but I had quite a lot of health difficulties growing up. I had a brain haemorrhage when I was born and I had quite severe asthma, so I was very aware of my limits and I guess my mortality much more than other children.

At the time it more a linguistic thing rather than actually a desire to die. I think I'd had an argument with a friend, I can't remember the circumstances. It was more of an "I don't want to do this anymore. I think I'll just die." I remember the next thought being "Oh, but actually I'm doing something fun with my mum at the weekend so maybe I won't."

It was a suicidal thought but it certainly wasn't intentional in any way.

Jon: But you track back your journey with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts from that moment.

Rachael: The suicidal thoughts came and went and until I was a teenager they never really bothered me, but it was an option from then on in. I didn't become ill until I was about 14.

Jon: Tell me about the anxiety and depression. When did that enter your life and what did living with it look like as you were growing up?

Rachael: I'd always been quite anxious and a bit of a worrier, but it wasn't until I was 14 that it really emerged.

I went on a Scripture Union holiday camp, which was a brilliant holiday, but it wasn't suited to me. I'd gone with my friends and it was physically quite gruelling. I had a week long panic attack, basically.

When I came home I was still really panicky and crying all the time and when I went back to school this continued. From then on nothing was ever the same. I cried every week at church and found life a struggle.

Jon: Did you get help at that time?

Rachael: I spoke to my pastor and my youth worker and my mum, and they were all brilliant, but I didn't have any medical help. I didn't see a doctor until I was about 15.