Inspirational Ribble Valley teenager Lewis Baxter, who thought about taking his own life two years ago, has posted stellar A-Level results.
The 19-year-old radio presenter, from Langho, proudly landed A* stars in economics and English Literature, plus a straight A in geography.
Now, he is planning to study a law degree at Durham University later this year and has launched the Ribble Valley’s first Mental Health Awareness Day – The Blurred Line – a free drop-in session at the Grand Theatre on Saturday, September 8th, between 11am and 3pm.
Lewis, a former head boy at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School, was in the iron grip of depression when he considered suicide by jumping off a bridge over the A59.
“My A-Level results will define my future, but I couldn’t have imagined this happening when I was ill, I’m so pleased,” said Lewis.
“It was a rainy day in winter when I set off from Whalley to that place.
“I went to the bridge with a very clear purpose of ending my life, but I just had enough in me to say: ‘This isn’t the right move Lewis’.
“When you’re in the moment, you want to go and do it.
“I also considered taking an overdose too.”
Lewis added: “It was difficult, no lad wants to show they’re vulnerable. But I was open and transparent. I wanted to tell the truth, tell my thoughts and feelings, the trip to the bridge and the pills, everything.
“However, standing on that bridge was the lowest moment of my life.”
Lewis, who presents a Saturday morning show on Clitheroe-based community radio station Ribble FM, said: “I’ve been down so many rocky roads, but I don’t think I could have got this far without the help of my parents, and the medical staff.
“Of course, I will never forget Kath Lord-Green at Ribble FM who gave me an opportunity on the radio and that was a massive help. I’ve turned a negative into a big positive.”
Mental Health charities will be on hand at the drop-in session to advise and inform local residents of the services on offer.
Dr Eve McKenna-Grant and Nick Talbot, a former Lancashire Constabulary Detective, will both talk about their battle with mental illness.
Lewis said: “I think it is incredible that ordinary people who are rooted in our community are talking about depression in public, and when celebrities, sports and pop icons share it too, then that’s a massively powerful thing.
“We think of them as invincible, that they never get ill or waver.
“But depression can strike anyone at any time of their lives. I’ve told my story and the response has been good, but there’s still a stigma attached to depression and more needs to be done.”
During his recovery, Lewis was introduced to counsellors from Child Action North West, where he also undertook cognitive behavioural therapy in Clitheroe.
“I want to bring together the Ribble Valley community as much as I can, because depression is a pandemic, and a severe issue for many people suffering the stress and strains of life in the 21st century,” added Lewis.
“I want people to know that there is help out there, via the NHS local services who are brilliant.”
For the normally outgoing teenager, depression saw him gradually withdraw from friends and family, turn downinvites to social gatherings, feeling little motivation as life moved on around him.
This was when he admits he first began having suicidal thoughts, as he struggled to cope: “It was a feeling of total isolation, and I disengaged from all walks of life.
“My room was my only haven. I felt useless. I felt I had no purpose. I missed talking rubbish, you know all the every-day stuff you chat about, the little nuances of life.”
Lewis was forced to suspend his studies at Clitheroe until he was well enough to return to college, completing his A Levels at Ermysted’s Grammar School at Skipton.
“The exams were a mental slog, but I love academia.
“A-Levels are all or nothing, so I went through a real range of emotions when I sat in that exam room.”
A promising goalkeeper, Lewis also had to put a career in professional football on hold after featuring for Manchester United, Blackpool and Preston youth teams.
“I’ve had my blips this year, and I don’t need a pat on the back, but recovering from depression, and not taking anti-depressants any more is a bit like winning a medal of my own.”
The Blurred Line: Focusing on mental health drop-in session is supported by Lancashire County Council and Ribble FM. The evening entertainment will feature Britain’s Got Talent star Ella Shaw, Spanish acoustic guitarist Scott Robertson and magician David Burgess. Tickets £20, from 7pm.