FRANK Bruno has told of the “terrifying” seven days he spent locked up inside a south Essex hospital.

The retired fighter was taken to the mental health unit at Basildon Hospital in 2012 when friends and family expressed concerns for his safety.

Bruno, 55, is now speaking out about his experiences there in his new book, Let Me Be Frank.

“It was a sad and lonely time,” said Bruno.

“When I was first sectioned for the first time in my life in 2003 I accepted I needed to go in to hospital. But in 2012 things were different.

“The reasons why I was sectioned were not explained to me by the doctors so for the first few hours inside Basildon I felt angry, betrayed and very confused.

“At times it was terrifying because I feared I may never get out.”

Bruno suffered side effects from powerful medication prescribed by doctors.

“I begged the doctors to stop giving me the stuff but they insisted it was for the best,” said Bruno.

“I tried to explain it was making my mental state worse. I was biting my own tongue, having dark thoughts and unable to get myself together.”

But during his time in Basildon, Bruno was attacked by a patient wielding a knife.

“That was the moment I knew I had to start doing what comes naturally to me - fight,” said Bruno.

“But I couldn’t use my fists. I’ve never laid a hand on anyone outside the ring and I never would.

“Instead I fought tooth and nail for the right to be released.”

Bruno was able to persuade a health board to release him from the mental health unit at Basildon Hospital after seven days in there.

But he was sectioned again days later and ended up spending six weeks in a different hospital. Now he is out, Bruno has no plans on letting himself fall back down.

Bruno said the hardest thing about being in hospital was not being able to train.

Despite retiring in 1996, Bruno is still incredibly fit and works out most days.

“I missed the gym more than anything,” said Bruno.

“I would do hundreds of press ups and push ups a day in hospital to keep me motivated and focused.

“I knew if I let myself lie down all day I’d never get back up.”

Bruno has now launched a foundation aiming to help others suffering mental ill health. The Frank Bruno Foundation promotes exercise, counselling and non-contact booking as a way to treat mental ill health.

A spokesperson for Basildon Hospital’s mental health unit said: “We respect the confidentiality of any patient in our care, past or present. We would not comment in the public domain on the circumstances of any patient’s care with us.”

>Frank Bruno will be visiting Rayleigh next month to sign copies of his new book.

Author Nick Owens said: “I’m pleased Frank will be doing that because there are lots of local links in this book. I wrote most of it in Rayleigh Library during my days off from work. But all the hard work was worth it.”

‘Let Me Be Frank’ is out in shops now. Signed copies are also available from frankbruno.co.uk.