A NEW book tells the story of a man who overcame a childhood of adversity and mental health issues to become a vicar awarded an MBE for his voluntary work in the Furness area.

In Life After Care: From Lost Cause to MBE, Father Mark Edwards relives the challenges he faced during a childhood spent in care, as well as his ongoing struggle with depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

Originally from Lincolnshire, 'Father Mark' - as he is affectionately known by people in the area - was ordained in 1995 at St Mary’s Church in Ulverston.

He would soon move on to St John’s on Barrow Island and St Francis in Ormsgill, becoming a well-known and well-liked community figure while also volunteering for Duddon Inshore Rescue in his spare time.

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His service aboard the lifeboats was recognised in 2010 with an MBE, and in 2012 with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal.

But to reach this point, Father Mark would have to endure his own stormy seas.

"From the age of three my brother and myself were in and out of foster homes and care homes, before ending up at a children's home," he said.

"When I reached my teenage years some of the mental health issues began to manifest - I suffered with depression, anxiety, and had a number of violent outbursts."

This period of challenging behaviour led Lincolnshire Social Services to move him to Chester to live with an estranged older sister. Overwhelmed by feelings of loss and love, he succumbed to suicidal thoughts.

"Within 18 months of moving to Chester I had attempted suicide, and was subsequently sectioned in a mental health hospital - a big, crumbling Victorian-era building with bars on the window."

This part of the story is brought to life through the inclusion of a series of diary entries written by an 18-year-old Mark. The journal gives a first-hand account of the struggles of an adolescent confined to a psychiatric institute.

Though the book provides a vivid account of a turbulent childhood, the story's overall message is one of hope. Mark explains how he turned his life around: not only becoming a vicar, but also a husband, a father and a grandfather, and a champion of the communities he serves.

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After becoming a vicar, the 14 years he spent in the Furness area would provide welcome stability for Father Mark and his family.

"Barrow was the first place I settled in for a long period of time, so in that sense it feels like home."

"I loved my time in Barrow, and I could relate to the people. I found members of the parishes to be open and warm-hearted."

With responsibility for Ormsgill and Barrow Island - parishes identified by the Church of England as "Urban Priority Areas" - the vicar found himself encountering people with circumstances and difficulties similar to those he had endured.

"I've always considered myself to be a working-class lad in a dog collar, and for that reason I found I could relate to the sense of community in places like Barrow Island and Ormsgill."

"Though there are pockets of deprivation, I've always defended those places, and I've been proud to serve the people there."

Though Mark remains a Barrovian at heart, he reluctantly moved to the North-East in 2008, becoming parish priest for Seaton Burn and chaplain for Northumbria Police. The move was fraught with difficulty, as a number of his mental health issues resurfaced.

"On leaving, many of my mental health issues came to the fore again - I struggled with the insecurities and anxieties brought on by change." he said.

"Though I was continuing with my ministry, I was wrestling with a lot of issues."

Thankfully, Mark is now settled in his new home, rediscovering his passion for voluntary work through training to become a First Ambulance Responder.

It was this dedication to voluntary work that saw him recognised by Buckingham Palace in 2010, receiving his MBE for services to the community from Prince Charles.

"It was a surreal, wonderful moment. After the journey I'd been on, I really had to pinch myself that I'd made it to Buckingham Palace with an MBE hanging proudly on my chest."

In telling his own story, Mark hopes to encourage openness and discussion around mental health - both in the Church and in wider society - with a particular concern for young people.

"I think society has gradually become much more open about it as an issue. It helps greatly when members of the Royal Family, sportspeople and celebrities come out talking about their issues with mental health."

"I do feel the church has a long way to go, but it's positive society is more open to this discussion. "

The book is published by Trigger Press, a specialist publishing company that focuses on books about mental health issues. A percentage of the sales goes to the Shaw Mind Foundation, a mental health charity aimed at reducing stigma and providing assistance for people with mental health issues.

The book is out now and is available online from Amazon and Waterstones in Barrow. Father Mark will be holding a book launch and signing event at Blackwell's in Newcastle on Tuesday November 21.