A LIFETIME of battling with mental illness and addiction is the inspiration behind a Warwick man’s new coaching business.
Believed to be the first of its kind in the area, Short Steps aims to recognise and act on the early signs of depression in men before it takes hold.
Chris Cortopassi has been forced to face up to his own demons including drink, drugs and sex addiction which almost led him to suicide.
And now, combining that experience with professional coaching and problem solving skills, has dedicated his life to helping others.
A reluctant student, Glaswegian Chris struggled to motivate himself through university before moving to Warwick to work as an engineer at National Grid.
And looking back he now recognises the first signs of his slide into depression.
“Looking back now I realise I was starting to feel those things that I now look for in my clients – frustrated, withdrawn and very angry about a lot of unimportant things.”
Chris’ spiral also impacted on a relationship and triggered a self-destructive path of behaviour including excessive alcohol and drug use.
He said: “For a huge amount of time I was kidding myself that I was coping with the day to day, but lent heavily on my ‘crutches’ – drank a lot and smoked a lot of marjhuana – ridiculous amounts.
“The antidepressants helped a bit but it was a huge amount of intoxication and I’d regularly end up making myself physically sick. When I broke up with my partner I slid pretty badly because I suppose there wasn’t anyone there to hide it from any more.”
But it was an early obsession with pornography that, Chris now recognises, played a huge part in his increasing mental health struggle.
“When I was a kid one day I clicked onto something I shouldn’t have and that started a lifetime of obsession about sex and pornography. I was staying up to the early hours and would struggle to get out of bed for school. My parents never knew until I had a breakdown when I was an adult and it all came out. It went on for years and years and became a big part of my life.
“I would just disappear into a black hole where I would sit and anaesthetise myself with my mental ‘crutches.’ It would typically be a bottle of wine, several beers, lots of weed and I would lose four or five hours easily.
It’s when he reached his lowest point – an hour standing on a bridge contemplating jumping that Chris realised something had to change.
His doctor referred him to IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) only for Chris to be added onto a four-month waiting list.
“I was really lucky because National Grid have a helpline. They assessed me straight away and I was enrolled on counselling sessions.”
These, plus thousands of pounds of private therapy, combined with psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and an increased focus on his personal development and learning, to give Chris the strength to begin fighting his demons and, in 2013, he started a new role at National Grid that was to lay the foundations for his new business.
“The new role as a practitioner meant coaching people and delivering training. The topics were really interesting to me inspiring people to change their attitudes and way they work. I was really excelling at it and enjoying it.
“You learn so much going through it, the processes and the way they support all the different theories and how childhood issues manifest and grow and now I really do have a breadth of knowledge.”
“A huge amount of the therapy is education but a lot of it was also just about forgiving myself.”
Chris gained his formal coaching certificate and, with new horizons in his sights, invested his savings from his years at National Grid to set up Short Steps – the Italian translation for his surname Cortopassi.
He uses online videos, one to one sessions and workshops to coach men in a five-step process around problem solving and goal setting and says it is this preventative approach that sets his business apart from the rest.
“There are two key things that are happening at the moment. One is a lot of awareness raising and the other is reactive services and responses. Whereas what Short Steps is about is preventative action, catching people and redirecting them before things get really bad.”
Visit www.shortsteps.co.uk for further details.