From Blue Lights to Burnout:
Zane's Journey into the Heart of Mental Resilience
Mental healthcare in England is in crisis. In a report during mental health awareness week, the Guardian described it as “a national emergency”, with “overwhelmed” services unable to cope with a big post-Covid surge in people needing help.
In this critical moment we introduce you to Zane; a former Devon and Cornwall Police Officer turned burnout prevention coach. His own mental health story isn't just compelling—it's vital. Zane's unique journey through the rigors of police work to the front lines of mental health advocacy offers us actionable insights towards managing our own mental health. His is a voice we need to hear. Now more than ever.
In a candid conversation with Zane McCormack—a New Zealand native who swapped rugby fields for the thin blue line—shares with me the intricate nuances and unexpected lessons of a life steeped in service and adaptability.
"As soon as I landed in the UK, I knew the rulebook had changed," Zane begins, his posture relaxed yet assured. "This wasn't just a change of scenery; it was as if I'd picked up a different game altogether—new rules, higher stakes.”
He arrived in Somerset in 1999 at the age of 24, brought over by a local rugby club. "They took care of me and gave me some pocket money. To be honest, I had no real plans beyond that. I was open to where rugby would take me. It was an extended gap year of sorts. I thought maybe I’d mooch around the UK, play a bit, maybe look at Ireland, and then return to New Zealand," he recounts with a wistful smile and a wink.
"But life has its own playbook," he continues. "I met the mother of my children and suddenly, I was no longer a visitor. I'd been a rugby coach and had a little role with Sport England, but meeting her made me rethink my options and search for something more long-term. That's when I knew I'd be staying here.”
At 30, Zane took a leap of faith and joined the Devon and Cornwall Police, for what would become an award winning tenure. ”Joining the force was a mental and emotional crucible," he says, his tone tinged with the wisdom of hindsight. "It wasn't just about understanding the law or the mechanics of policing; it was a profound exercise in psychological agility. The communities I served became intricate puzzles, each requiring its own unique set of cognitive tools. Balancing empathy with authority, making complex ethical decisions on the fly—it required a type of mental fortitude that I'd never needed before”.
Zane's role wasn't confined to the routine duties of a police officer. He was deeply involved in the operational aspects across mid-Devon, Exeter, and East Devon. "I even had a stint as a lost person search manager, coordinating major search and rescue operations involving everyone from the Coast Guard to local volunteers. Those operations could last a week or more," he adds explains. But the pressure was unrelenting, and in early 2020, Zane faced a personal crisis. "I found myself grappling with burnout. I was burning both ends of the candle—clocking in sleep that didn't even qualify as a power nap," he reflects, pausing as though each word carries a toll. "It was a slow grind towards breaking point. If I were to describe it, it felt like I was being slowly, inevitably pulled under. It was a wake-up call—a loud, jarring alarm that I couldn’t ignore anymore," he says with startling honesty. "It forced me to take a step back, reassess my priorities and make some tough decisions.” While others were quick to attribute his downward spiral to occupational hazards, Zane challenged that oversimplification: “People wanted to pin it on the job, but the truth? The job was only one variable in a complicated equation. The missing piece? That was me. I was the catalyst in my own downward spiral. But it takes a while and some deep work to realise that.” Taking stock of his life, Zane architected a comeback strategy that was less about tips and tricks and more about a lifestyle transformation. “ I realised that nobody was coming to rescue me in the way I needed to be rescued," he states. I had to overhaul my entire operating system—mindfulness, fitness, personal boundaries—you name it. That then became my new foundation.” Today, Zane has channelled his experiences into a coaching role, guiding others through their own complex landscapes. "I'm back to where I started—in coaching—but with a far richer perspective. Now, I'm focused on helping individuals navigate the stress and uncertainties of their professional lives," he eludes. "My past roles have perfectly set me up for this, teaching me the importance of balance, mental resilience and adaptability in the face of changing situations.” As we wrap up our conversation, it's clear that Zane’s journey has been anything but linear. And in this intricate web of roles and responsibilities, one thing remains constant: Zane's unwavering commitment to adapt, serve, and learn from the unexpected twists that life has to offer. So why open up now? "The answer's cut-and-dry," he leans in, gripping the moment. "Life isn't a spectator sport. I want to be the guy who offers you a hand when you've been dealt a bad card. Simply put, burning out wasn’t academic for me; it was a painful, lived experience.” Our conversation ends, but Zane leaves mew with a thought that outlasts his physical presence. "Life's a decision-making game. You're either reacting, or you're at the helm, charting your course. It’s not just about making a choice; it’s about owning it, steering your life like you mean it.” It’s in the echo of Zane’s words, that one thing becomes is abundantly clear to me. This isn't just his tale to tell; it's a dialogue, he’s inviting us into, that will allow us to embrace resilience, grapple with complexity, and claim the driver’s seat in our own lives. Don’t let this conversation end here. Reach out to secure Zane for your next event and prepare for a transformative dialogue steeped in lived experience, tangible insights, and fortified by an unbreakable spirit.