An author has restored his mental health by writing children’s books which he hopes will provide messages of hope in an uncertain world.

Peter Bell’s corporate life took him around the globe, but ultimately at the cost of his own mental health as he slipped relentlessly into what he describes as “an extremely dark place”.

By contrast, picking up a blank sheet of paper in his darkest moment, his mood lightened to the point where what began as a story of sorrow is now his solace in a day job as an author.

His latest book, Bob, is a salutary reminder that there is more to life than unhealthy comparisons to others and the striving for greater immaterial possessions.

Carlisle-born and raised, Peter took up the metaphorical pen when he was 36.

Bob popped into his head just at the right time and proved to be his saviour. With suicide on the rise in the UK, especially among men, many of his age are sadly not so lucky.

Peter turned his life around by writing and now he is sharing his inspirational journey from depression at a time when the world is struggling with mental health issues as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It has been a journey, like Bob’s,” said Peter, who is married to Sophie, has a baby, Albie, and two Labradors Archie and Ruby.

“A few years ago, I never thought I would one day become a writer. From working in the field of corporate finance, to jumping to a blank sheet of paper and seeing what appears is refreshing. What people need to realise is that if you let life go where it takes you and live within the moment, they will probably become a lot happier.

“My anxiety and depression was sparked a few years back and it put me in an extremely dark place. Therapy followed, and Jan, my therapist at the time, suggested I put something down on paper about how I was feeling to help break the perpetual loop that depression and anxiety feeds off. I was lucky to receive the amazing help and support I did. I feel I owe it to those not so lucky to raise greater awareness of this terrible illness.”

Peter found inspiration for Bob close to home.

He said: “Bob is my father and like his famous namesake, is also a builder. He was from a generation which found it difficult to deal with or speak about issues such as mental health. So the book is about mental health experiences throughout key events in his life.”

The fictional Bob is taken back in time by a kind-hearted elf called Archie – named after Peter’s oldest Labrador – who shows Bob there is more to life than what he initially perceives and it’s within our families and friends where true happiness lies.

Archie makes him look at how he has "grumped and groaned" his way through life and, with a hint of Christmas Carol meets It’s a Wonderful Life, reveals a bleak future unless he mends his ways.

Originally the book, illustrated by Peter’s sister-in-law artist Rosie Curtis, was aimed at children up to the age of eight and their parents.

“I wanted to write a story that parents can read to their children surrounding a difficult topic and also to help those currently battling with the illness to know that given time and support happiness can be found, even in the darkest of places,” he said. “But then, through social media, and the help of my publishers, it was picked up by the likes of the International Family Nursing Association (IFNA) which sees it as having a much wider appeal."

The IFNA spans across 28 countries and Peter is going to do some work with the association around mental health, including public speaking at international conferences.

“Take COVID-19 for example,” he said. “It is a mental health disaster in the making with people becoming more isolated and insular coupled to the impact it’s having on jobs, redundancies, families and the global economy. It’s an underlying crisis to COVID that isn’t yet receiving the focus it should.

“Mental illness revolves around a perpetual cycle that if you don’t break will grow and develop pushing you towards an unthinkable end. I look at things now in the moment as a lot of things are outside our control. The focus for me now is my family and everything else is a wonderful addition rather than the crux.”

There’s another book on the way; issues of love and loss woven this time into a story about a little girl called Molly, her grandfather and a lighthouse. “This was meant to be an aside but is now a full time job,” said Peter. “But wherever the journey is taking these characters, it is taking me as well.”

Bob is published in paperback by Olympia, priced £6.99, ISBN: 978-1-83934-004