Dan Keeley is an unshakable optimist who believes in world where the vast majority of the UK population feel empowered to speak up when we’re suffering.
Described as “one of the UK’s most passionate & captivating mental health activists”, Dan is on a mission to collaborate & create the world he believes in, one where every single one of us has the courage, support & safe space to speak up when we’re suffering.
In 2012, at the age of 27, Dan experienced a full-scale psychotic episode which left him preaching from the middle lane of major motorway in Italy at rush hour. After 6 months of elevating mood and ignoring all the warning signs, Dan’s mind took him from believing he we was ‘the next Mark Zuckerberg’, to ‘the next Steve Jobs’, to believing we was ‘The Chosen One’, all driven by early childhood trauma and an unrestrained obsession to ease as much of the world’s suffering going on at the time.
By definition, Dan lost his sanity. With a clear diagnoses of Bipolar Disorder, Dan spent time in psychiatric wards before facing a crippling 6 month period of clinical depression which left him wanting to take my own life. Thankfully, with the incredible support network around him coupled with life-saving talking therapy & medication, Dan started his long yet progressive journey of recovery, speaking openly about his experiences at every stage and seeing the affect his words would have on those around him (so often giving permission for others to speak up about their personal struggles).
When writing the story of your life don’t let anybody else hold the penDan Keeley
Fast-track to 2017, now with 5 years of sharing his experiences publicly and on a growing number of media platforms, Dan knew he had to create a project to share his story on a truly national scale, and so Rome To Home was born. In the summer of 2017, Dan returned to Italy but this time (instead of standing in the middle of a motorway) Dan would successfully set-out to run 1250 miles (solo & self-supported) from the Colosseum in Rome back to the London Eye over 65 life-affirming days, with astonishing results.
Broadcasting his adventure daily, Dan raised over £17,000 for a leading mental health charity and positively impacted the lives of hundreds of others struggling with severe mental health difficulties at the time, all of which was celebrated in style with a huge welcome at the London Eye on the 28th October 2017.
I made a committment to myself that I would strip this all back and start again.Dan Keeley
Since then and as we speak today, you’ll rarely find Dan doing anything other than trail-blazing his mission by delivering powerful live talks with many of the UK’s most forward-thinking organizations committed to investing & improving the mental-wellbeing of their workforce.
As an extension of his vision, Dan is also the Founder & Mission Director of #AREWEOKUK: the social movement with a clear mission to inspire & empower the UK to speak up when we’re suffering so that together we can show future generations how it’s done. Dan is also a proud Salomon Brand Ambassador, Yes Tribe Ambassador, Alpine Ski Instructor, Husband, Father and family man.
Dan and I discussed the following in our conversation:
- At the age of 27 Dan had a mental breakdown
- He had a very normal upbringing in East Sussex in the UK and had no signs of mental health issues beforehand.
- The only sign before hand was periods of heightened awareness during in his life
- Dan has always been creative, sporty, wanting to bring people together and making people feeling part of something bigger than themselves, he has always wanted to have a social impact. These three things have always been his North Star.
- How in January 2012 Dan started working for a snow charity helping underprivileged young people and how quickly he became extremely obsessed by what he was doing.
- In the period January to June of 2012 Dans self care rapidly deteriorated and the thought of spending just 2 hours in the kitchen seemed like a waste of time. He stopped exercising eating and sleeping he was averaging 2.5 hours sleep a night.
- The warning that began to show as his family booked a family holiday to Italy, but how Dan couldn’t slow himself down after 6 months of ramping things up.
- How in Dan’s family there was no mental health history or conditions so his family had no reason to think it was anything other than Dan getting carried away.
- As Dan went further he became more and more heightened about what he was thinking and doing and his answer to the world’s problems.
- The financial effect of spending money he didn’t have on his credit cards.
- The sensory effect of the episode on Dan’s awareness and perception of sight, sense, touch, smell and taste.
- The moment Dan tried to ‘reset the clock’ and force the world to slow down by flagging down and stopping the traffic on an Italian motorway at the same time as recruiting people to his cause.
- Dan then spent 2 ½ weeks in a psychiatric ward in Italy where he was given drugs to recover, the effect on his sleep, appetite and how confused he was.
- This then was followed by 2 ½ weeks in a psychiatric ward in the U.K. after which time he was given a formal Bi Polar disorder diagnosis.
- By the end of 2012 Dan didn’t want to be here any more, he was bed bound, the thought of walking 2 meters was like climbing Everest, he didn’t want to see anyone, he cut himself off, but had talking therapy twice a week.
- How talking therapy, good people being around him and medication was what made the difference to his recovery.
- The relationship we all have with thought and how Dan had to accept the situation he was in and get help.
- How dan believes we are all suffering to a lesser to a greater degree, we are all on the spectrum, his key was putting himself first.
- The turning point in December 2012 when he went out in public for the first time, and made the decision to strip his life back to the essentials.
- How Health, Relationships, Passions, Service, are Dan’s four main areas of focus now.
- How Dan started to share his journey of recovery.
- The 3 amazing things that happened when he shared his experience – 1. He felt lighter 2. More people joined his team, 3. It gave permission for the other person to speak up about what they were going through.
- The Importance of Self Care to keep yourself on the straight and narrow and having people around you.
- The importance of watching Disney’s – Cars and the story of Lightning McQueen!!!
- Dan’ epic 2017 endurance run from Rome to London 65 days 1250 miles – a celebration of building support networks, sharing experiences, his 5 year journey and a bookend to the chapter. How he averaged 20 miles per day, felt like he was back, in such a great place, and channeled his positive energy into the project. The Life changing and life affirming nature of his endurance run.
- The cathartic effect of running, getting in the zone, and how your emotions begin to unwind when running. The calming effect of Dan’s journey through Italy, and the effect it had on him. How it was his pilgrimage back.
- How family was the one thing that kept him going and he wanted to be happy again for his family.
- The effect of medication and communication in the journey along with the courage to speak up when you are suffering. How the power of speaking up when you are suffering is important
- The lense through which Dan sees the world is that everyone has struggles and he has really started to form human connections which have the effect of empathy, compassion etc.
Stuff Dan I discussed when we spoke:
How you can get in touch with Dan and find out a bit more about him and the organizations he supports: