From prison isolation to solitary Atlantic crossing; ‘Wonga’ coup plotter Simon Mann on battling mental illness

11 Oct

The “crazy idea” to enter the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, however, came while he was still incarcerated and he read about in the copies of Yachting World passed to him by his guards. Next year, he will row around the Isle of Wight in preparation for the 2019 race.

Mann, whose son Jack served in the Household Cavalry’s Blues and Royals regiment and is a close friend of William and Harry, hopes to raise “a seven-figure sum” for the Heads Together initiative set up by the princes to help combat the stigma of mental illness. Mann, who served in the Scots Guards and SAS, and rejoined the army to fight in the first Gulf War says: “My grandfather fought in the First World War and my father in the Second, and they were massively traumatised. They hid it, but it came out in a disproportionate response to things like a dog barking.

“What the Princes have done is fantastic, to say: ‘Look, don’t be scared to talk about it because you’re not going to get better on your own.’ The act of talking about this stuff with someone else is massively healing.”

The mercenary turned businessman and public speaker says that society also needs to face up to the mental health issues likely to result from an ageing population.

“ I can reasonably expect to have another 30 years to live. How do you deal with the fact that time will be available to you?” he says. “Once you’ve stopped working, do you sit there waiting to die, or do you go out there do something?”

Crossing the Atlantic could take more than 80 days of gruelling, solitary, effort, accompanied by the ever present risk of capsize. Mann is sanguine about the prospect of leaving his family and spending so much time, once again, on his own, facing the mental as well as the physical challenge of reaching the other side without losing everything.

“People ask my son, Jack, whether my experience in prison had an effect on me, and he tells them: ‘He was crazy before he went inside’,” he said. “Perhaps this proves it.”

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