mikedagleyA free service to help people manage difficulties with alcohol and/or substance misuse issues and address signs of poor mental health has been launched by a former professional Thai-boxer in Stockport.

‘Breaking Free’ is an online therapy course, offered at Stockport’s Wellbeing Centre or from home, which gives people the skills they need to tackle substance misuse issues. It also enables them to beat signs of poor mental health, such as low mood, lack of motivation and feelings of guilt and anger.

The course was created by retired Thai-boxer Mike Dagley (pictured in action left), after he recovered from an alcohol addiction that, he says, "nearly ruined his life".

Dagley had used drugs and alcohol to deal with depression and anxiety from his late teens onwards. "I was a journalist until my mid-20s but lost two jobs through heavy drinking and couldn’t find a job on a newspaper after that," he explained.

"I re-trained as a chef and worked in some good places in the city centre, like the Lowry Hotel and Harvey Nichols. But I never figured out why I felt so bad. Life is hard and stressful in a busy kitchen and it helped me convince myself that my life was worthless.

"Everything came to a head one weekend and, in the end, I spent a week in a psychiatric ward in Stepping Hill Hospital [in Stockport]."

That was nearly 3 years ago but now Dagley says he feels "stronger than ever". Until recently, Dagley was also a Thai boxer, and had had 14 fights on shows around the country before retiring to avoid a potential serious head injury.

But now, he is devoting more time to his work with mental health charity Self Help Services, where, he says, he has found his "true calling".

"Cognitive behavioural therapy really helped me get better. These techniques are also included in Breaking Free," he added.

"If this was around when I was young it could have saved me lots of grief."

To access ‘Breaking Free’ call Mike Dagley on 07432 702695, email stockportdualtherapy@selfhelpservices.org or refer yourself through the Self Help Services website: www.selfhelpservices.org.uk