AN ex-police officer turned personal trainer has opened up about his mental health battle while in the police force ­— and why he left.

Nick Talbot launched The Fit Mill in Blackburn 18 months ago, after quitting working as a police officer in the area.

Living in Chorley, the 43-year-old quit the force in 2017 to focus on his health after having a mental breakdown.

He said: “It made me really ill and I went off sick.

“I was in a really bad place and it is why I have so much focus on not putting pressure on myself.

“It is the best thing to happen to me and you learn to look after yourself a lot more.

“Now I am in a good place, and hopefully working to be a good dad as well as a personal trainer.”

The dad-of-one spent 15 years in the police force, starting out in Cheshire before transferring to CID at Lancashire Police.

He said: “It was very busy, but I loved working there.

“I still love the police force and I wanted to do it for the full 30 years, but I knew I could never walk back in again when I left.

“I had not looked after myself at all, so it wasn’t the police force but myself I have to blame for it.

“I would do 15 to 18 hour days working because the community needed us, and I wanted to help.

“The police force works really hard to protect their community, there just isn’t enough of them.”

One particularly difficult case he covered was the murder of Sadie Hartley in 2016.

Miss Hartley was killed by the jealous ex of her partner, and her friend.

He said: “She was just an innocent woman who was attacked because somebody wanted what she had.

“That stays on my mind a lot, that someone would go to those lengths.

“You can’t get too personal though, or you would break in the first week.”

Another case was a terrifying armed robbery at Humberstone Jewellers, Blackburn, in 2016. Two balaclava-clad men smashed their way into the shop with bats and a machete, threatened staff and stole at least four Rolex and an Omega watch.

Two men were caught but it took another year to find the other perpetrators and Mr Talbot helped eventually track one down all the way in Spain.

He said: “They were horrific in their crime, they did not care who got in the way. They were brutal. They got a total of 50 years between them.”

On the day of his breakdown, Mr Talbot said: “I knew I was not right a few weeks before, but one day I was sat in the office and started crying, I could not stop.

“I was off for a year and just decided in the end I could not go back.

“It would be unfair to blame it all on the police force, my dad had also died that year and my relationship had just broken down.”

“I have had guns and knives pulled on me and I just dealt with it, and went to the next job without really thinking about it.

“I think because we can be so casual about what happens, we make it worse for ourselves.”

But a year after quitting the police, Mr Talbot found his passion by becoming a personal trainer, which he says has helped him recover.

He said: “I discussed it one night with a friend, and the next day we were out looking for places.

“Our focus at the Mill Fit Gym is mental health first.

“We like to understand what people want for their bodies and don’t like to focus on having Instagram bodies.

“I’m not a counsellor but I can listen and be there for people if they also want to talk about what’s bothering them.

“Being physically fit will help you mentally too.

“I get police officers messaging me saying that hearing about my story has helped them realise they need to take a break or look after their health.”

At the gym, Mr Talbot has helped a man who was too scared to go swimming with his son and a girl who had arthritis so she can move her arms and elbows more.

He added: “Not everyone wants to have a six pack and seeing some of these Instagram models gives others crippling anxiety. Some of us just want to be healthy.”

Visit his Instagram page at @fitmillblackburn