JENNIFER Hastings still doesn’t know what triggered her disappearance from the family home she shares with husband and rugby legend Scott in March.
By the time her awareness returned, she had been missing for more than 36 hours and was ten miles from the house in Warriston without a phone or any way to contact her frantic loved ones desperately waiting for her return.
Cold and alone, she eventually found her way to the safety of a police station where officers revealed she’d spent almost two days in the Pentland Hills on the edge of the Capital.
It was the latest episode in a crippling 20-year battle with depression that had previously manifested itself in an attempt to take her own life in 2014.
Now, three months later, Jenny, 53, and Scott, 52, are trying to piece together the events of that Tuesday morning. “It’s awful to even think about that now, but the reality is I just wanted to get away, I wanted to be on my own,” she revealed.
“I didn’t want to be with anyone. At that point I really felt that I was not part of anyone’s life – I didn’t believe anyone wanted me around.
“I was just walking, completely lost in my thoughts. I wasn’t even sure where I was or where I was going.
“I ended up somewhere in the Pentlands, next to a reservoir, I can’t remember its name.
“Everything up until that point had just been a complete blur.
“I think the only reason police found me was because I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for years, but at the time I didn’t recognise her. I think it was her that eventually put the call out to tell people where I was.
“They told me I had been out there for 36 hours, I was freezing and I ended up being treated for exposure. But at the time I wasn’t even aware of that.”
The couple are gearing up for the second year of their “100 streets challenge”, a charity initiative launched in partnership with Support In Mind Scotland that aims to keep people active and improve their mental wellbeing.
During the course of his rugby career, Scott established himself as one of Scotland’s greatest ever players alongside brother Gavin. A pacey and fearless outside centre, he won 65 caps for his country and represented the British and Irish Lions twice, however he admits that supporting his wife of 25 years has been among the toughest challenges he’s faced off the pitch.
“It was understanding what are the triggers that get you in that situation,” he said.
“We still don’t know what it was that happened that morning. Previously she would pick up the phone, but this time she didn’t.
“There are other ways of self-harming, it doesn’t all have to be physical. For Jenny, it was that she felt a burden and the way she dealt with that was to run away and we realised the impact that has.
“I find that difficult, having that conversation of, ‘When it’s two o’clock in the morning, why aren’t you coming home?’.”
Three years ago, Scott was forced to administer an adrenaline injection when Jenny collapsed in front of them at their home after trying to take her own life.
Since then, she has experienced depressive episodes lasting “between eight to ten hours”, but none as long as her terrifying experience in March.
Through their partnership with Stronger In Mind, the couple have met dozens of people affected by depression and while they believe the stigma around mental illness still exists, the conversation around it is at least moving in the right direction.
“People have come up to me in the street and congratulated me for speaking out,” Jenny said.
“Now I’m in a good place. It’s quite amazing how many people will just stop you in the street and ask, ‘How are you?’. It’s lovely to know they care.
“Some people in our families still don’t deal with it in the same way.
“Especially among the older generation, there’s an attitude of, ‘Get over it’.
“For younger people I think it’s different. Our daughter, Kerry-Anne, goes to mental health seminars at her university and she comes away with a better understanding of it.”
Scott added: “In my mind, Jenny’s mental illness is no different from a knee injury.
“Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
“There was a time when mental illness had this horrible stigma – recently, even in the last 15 to 20 years – but now those barriers are being broken down.
“If anything good has come of this, it’s that people are now talking.”
The couple are keen to continue their charity work and hope to use sport and exercise – through campaigns like the hundred streets challenge – to show there are other ways to cope, with Scott hoping his “role model” wife can act as inspiration for those suffering from mental illness.
“When sports people come out and talk about their issues, it shows that mental illness can happen to anyone,” he said.
“It humanises them in a way. It might well be someone suffering from mental health issues for the first time and maybe they can’t talk to a family member about it.
“There is help out there. They can pick up the phone.”
“Even some of the royals who have come out and spoken about their issues. They’re showing that there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”
Jenny added: “We just want people to know we’re here, that whatever they might be going through, there is support available.”
“We want them to know we’re making a difference and we’re trying to show people that when they do struggle, it’s not the end of the world and they can pick themselves up and get back on their feet.”