The story of Rob Hosking is one of brutal honesty, heartbreak and inspiration. Born in Northern Ireland, in the town of Newtownards, growing up against the backdrop of the troubles, life could be challenging. It is a childhood that Rob describes as being incredibly sheltered, with his parents always knowing where he was at all hours of the day. Boys being boys though, this was severely tested from time to time.
Despite the troubles, it was home to Rob and a place that he will always love. Life though, would soon take from one battle to another as he moved to Scotland, where he would study History at University.
It was amid his studies, that he was struck with the notion of not knowing what he wanted to do next, or where he wanted to go in life. When the time came to graduate, that same feeling was still there: what to do next?
“Why did I end up becoming a Police Officer?” says Rob, ” I would love to say that it was because I followed my dream. However, this was not the case. It was a career that was recruiting at the time, and I was at the end of university having studied History not knowing what I wanted to do next. Couple that with the fact that my family were either military or police and you wouldn’t be surprised that I ended up in that profession.
It was his time in the Police Force that would mark the beginning of a long hard struggle. A time that nearly brought Rob to his knees, as he contemplated suicide. On the Force, he would be made to confront his worst nightmare, watch a colleague die in front of his eyes and witness a young man take his own life. Each day became a living nightmare of mental anguish as he endured an environment where he felt trapped and kept his true feelings locked up behind bars. He would wear a smile for everyone he saw, but in truth, he was numb from the world, and sinking deeper into the depths of depression.
It would be a period in Rob’s life that would end up having a profound effect on him and would shape the eventual path he would take. When an incident at work took him to the point of abyss he knew it was time to escape. Not knowing what was next, he opened up to those closest to him and told them everything.
For Rob, sharing his heartache and grief proved to be a turning point. He began to realise what his purpose in life was, and that he wanted to share his story with others, to help people who had felt as lost as him. “In terms of mental health,” Rob explains, “My advice is always to talk. Talk to someone, anyone. But please talk about how you feel. Be open and when you are open you will be amazed with how many people will respond to vulnerability with vulnerability.
It has been a long hard road and Rob was diagnosed with PTSD after leaving the Police Force. But he has battled through the toughest of days to become an international TEDX motivational speaker, advocate for mental health and wellbeing, and the co-founder of Rise of Happiness and owner of Insponation Events. All of which underlines his passion and desire to help as many people as possible.
At a time of year when looking after our mental health and looking out for our loved ones becomes even more important, it was a pleasure to sit down with Rob, as he spoke honestly about his struggles, how he found his purpose and his advice on how to look after your well-being
MY HEART DROPPED AS MY BIGGEST FEAR BECAME A REALITY
I was a police officer for 5 years and throughout that time I experienced a lot of ups and downs with my mental health. You see, I was stuck in a cycle of negativity. Negativity from what I was witnessing, and negativity from colleagues who hated their jobs and had a pessimistic view of the world. As time went on, I found myself becoming that negative person. I found myself having that same pessimistic view of the world and the people in it. From the minute I joined I always feared dealing with dead bodies, especially a hanging. I never wanted to experience that. However, one day it was my turn to experience that trauma.
Unfortunately, it was one of many ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moments that came from what would be my last shift. On the morning of that last shift, I witnessed a young male take his own life. I was immediately on the scene and went straight over to him to help, but I was unable to get to where he was. His eyes were fixed on mine and I was unable to help him. I watched on as he took his last breaths in this world. To this day it hurts me that I was unable to help, unable to save him. Another traumatic incident in the bag and another day of the Police Force not caring as I went to call after call.
Around 5-6 hours later my colleague had a heart attack on shift and died. I remember the paramedics giving him CPR and I was looking on yet again unable to help or save him. Both were traumatic, but the thing that woke me up to living the life I wanted was that my colleague was 1 year away from retirement. In almost all my communication with him, he would mention his excitement for retirement and all the plans he had. You see, I saw someone putting off living the life they desired until retirement. I saw someone putting off living because of a job.
At that moment I knew this was it for me. I knew that my Police career was over. It woke me up to living. Not just living any life but it woke me up to living the life I wanted. A life that I could create for myself following MY passion and focusing on MY happiness. You see, I gave everything to that job. I was protecting the public, but I wasn’t protecting myself.
Throughout the 5 years, my mental health suffered dramatically to the point where I wanted to take my own life. But in the Police, at work, I always wore a mask. I was always the one laughing and joking. No one would have ever thought that I was in trouble, but I was. I never told anyone and kept it all to myself until very recently. The last shift was the final nail in a coffin which had many nails in it already. I was ready to change my life and I was ready to find myself again.
ONCE I WAS ABLE TO SHARE MY STORY WITH MY CIRCLE, I REALISED HOW MUCH BETTER IT MADE ME FEEL
It was a while after my police career had finished, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but the idea of sharing my story always kept coming back up. I didn’t know how I wanted to do that, but I knew I had to. However, it took a few years to be in a position where I was able to share my story with my closest circle, never mind with anyone else.
Before I knew it, I was giving a TEDx talk about my story… Whirlwind… I was living in Valencia and the creativity that I once had before I had joined the Police started flooding back to me.
When I was living in Scotland I was void of ideas, unhappy in my environment and my life. Once I was away from that environment, I found that I started to thrive again as a person. All these ideas were coming to my head about how I could help people who were suffering with their mental health, and I came up with an idea about sharing people’s mental health and well-being stories in a magazine. My partner (and business partner) and I then started to put our heads together and figure out what this may look like.
We wanted people from the public eye and everyday people to share their stories in their own words in our magazine and we wanted people to see that no matter who you are or what you have, we all have mental health. We wanted to explore this idea of happiness and in our magazine, give readers, through expert tips and advice, an insight into how they can create a happier more aligned life. Rise of Happiness was born.
INSPIRING THE NATION, ONE EVENT AT A TIME
Recently I decided that I wanted to create an event where motivational speakers share their stories with people. However, so many events like this exist in the world. But one thing that didn’t exist was this idea that a member of the public could buy a ticket to an event where they would hear 3 speakers but wouldn’t know who those 3 speakers were until they walked out on stage. I thought this was not only a unique idea but an important one.
Many times in my life I have found something amazing and inspirational from a source I wouldn’t have looked up myself. It’s easy to go to talks when you know who it is and know what they will talk about. But, how about we give ourselves to the universe and let go of what we think we need to know and open ourselves to learning something we didn’t think we needed to? This is the beauty of Insponation, inspiring the nation, one event at a time.
WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT IT IS MORE THAN THE SUPERFICIAL WELL-BEING TICKED BOXES
We are in a position where we need to redefine what workplace wellbeing really means. We’ve come a long way, but there is still so much more to do. Yes, yoga for staff is brilliant and ping pong tables and pizza Fridays are great, but they don’t make good workplace well-being. Instead, we need to look beyond that. We need to look at how staff treat each other.
Research was carried out that said that 69% of people felt that their mental health was mainly affected by their manager. Having these pizza Fridays is all good and well but when we treat our staff badly then expect a toxic work culture where staff turnover is frequent.
In my talks, I say how important it is to promote a happier workforce as this is not only good for the staff but also the organisation, as happy staff are 13% more productive.
But we need to understand the role an organisation plays in the happiness of their staff. We need to understand that it is more than the superficial well-being ticked boxes. It comes down to the language used daily by managers, it comes down to the treatment of staff and it comes down to workload and making staff feel like they belong and are valued.
IN TERMS OF MENTAL HEALTH, MY ADVICE IS ALWAYS TO TALK. TALK TO SOMEONE, ANYONE. BUT PLEASE TALK ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL
I think at this time of year as well, mental health and well-being is so important. Understanding what makes you happy really matters. It’s hard to know what makes you happy. Of course it is, so it is important to understand what makes you unhappy. This is a great first step because you can then remove those things from your life and go from there.
From my experience, I think it is imperative to do something for yourself every single day. That may be 5 mins of reading, listening to music or going for a walk. No matter what it is, it is so important we do something for ourselves. It’s all about the compounding interest in wellbeing and mental health. What you do each day matters. So, my advice is, no matter what shift you are on and what you’ve got on in your life, write down something each day that you’ve done for yourself that makes you happy. See how this simple task can make a difference.
In terms of mental health, my advice is always to talk. Talk to someone, anyone. But please talk about how you feel. Be open and when you are open you will be amazed with how many people will respond to vulnerability with vulnerability.
If I can save one person from suicide, and help someone follow their path in life then I am happy
I have to steal something Matthew McConaughey said at his Oscars acceptance speech when asked about who his hero was. He said, “So you see every day, every week, every month, and every year of my life, my hero is always 10 years away. I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”
I don’t like the word proud and I would say I’m not proud of anything I’ve achieved. Ask me again in 10 years…all joking aside, I am very happy to have done a TEDx talk earlier this year and can say I am an International Speaker as I have given a talk in Orlando recently. I am so happy to be spreading my story and it fills me up when people come up to me after a talk saying how much the talk has impacted them.
Recently a male approached me in tears. He was trying to hide it from the rest of his team and he said how much he resonated with my talk and wanted to thank me personally for making him change his views on so much. That touched me. That’s why I do it, I thought to myself. That is what makes me happy. Seeing that I am making a difference in the life of someone. Even if it’s just one person. If I can save one person from suicide, and help someone follow their happy path in life then I am happy.
It’s challenging though no doubt. Each time I talk about that day when I wanted to take my own life and how I almost carried through with the act (thankfully my dog Louis saved me from going through with it), I feel a lump in my throat and I feel the emotion hit me. It’s difficult, even though I have delivered so many talks. I can’t say it gets any easier.
For the year ahead I have talks planned already and will have the first Insponation event coming so stay tuned for details about the location.
Although I’ve not fully planned this trip as of yet, a bucket list thing of mine would be to go to Vietnam. I am going to New Zealand at the end of the year so if I could get Vietnam in there as well then I would be very happy. Well, I do love a challenge.
All our thanks to Rob Hosking for sharing his story.
To follow Rob’s journey on social media visit here