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Chris Packham, 61, is best known for presenting Springwatch, Winterwatch, and Autumnwatch, but he has also spoken at length about being diagnosed later in life with Asperger’s Syndrome, and the impact of the condition. The TV personality has now admitted that as a teenager, there were several occasions when he wanted to “take his own life”.
He shared: “I never forget that I’m lucky to be here. Because I came very close to taking my own life on several occasions in my youth – when autism is most difficult to deal with – and even as an adult.
“Today there are teenagers who are sat alone in their bedrooms with no tunnel in view, let alone a light at the end of it.
“We have learned so much about the condition since I was growing up in the 1960s, yet young people are still suffering.
“That’s unconscionable,” he added to this week’s Radio Times.
Chris Packham previously spoke on the podcast How Do You Cope?… with Elis and John about certain implications of his condition.
The Springwatch star said that one of the difficulties is struggling to be “physically touched” by strangers, or even loved ones, including stepdaughter and BBC co-star Megan McCubbin, 27.
Chris shared: “I don’t like being physically touched by strangers, or even people I know to be quite honest.”
Speaking on showing affection to Megan when she was a child, Chris insisted that he knew it was important.
He said: “I cuddled her as a child, because I understood that was something I needed to do, but we don’t spend time embracing now.”
However, sometimes, Megan, who works on Springwatch with Chris, will spontaneously give him a hug and he finds it difficult to reciprocate the gesture.
The TV presenter added: “Sometimes if we haven’t seen each other for a while, she comes up and insists on giving me a big hug. I just sort of close my eyes and wince.”
Chris entered Megan’s life at an early age when she was only two-years-old, after he began dating her mum, Jo.
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Although the couple split when Megan was 11, Chris and his stepdaughter have remained close.
Megan’s mum is a nurse, while Chris’ partner Charlotte Corny runs the Isle of White Zoo.
While isolating together during the Covid pandemic, the now-colleagues penned a book entitled Back to Nature: How to Love Life and Save it.
Chris lives in a cottage in the New Forest and was not formally diagnosed with Asperger’s until 2005.
His fascination with animals and the natural world paved the way to his television career, but was to an extent fuelled by the obsessive aspect that comes from Asperger’s, he has said.
The star is now very much content with who he is as a person and often advocates for those with learning difficulties.
The Springwatch star divulged: “If there were a cure for Asperger’s, I don’t know if I’d want it.
“Humanity has prospered because of people with autistic traits. Without them, we wouldn’t have put man on the Moon or be running software programs.
“If we wiped out all the autistic people on the planet, I don’t know how much longer the human race would last.”
If you or someone you know has been affected by this story, Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year.
Alternatively, you can find more information on the Samaritans website here.
Read the full interview in this week’s Radio Times – out now.
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