In a week focused on men’s physical and mental wellbeing, Simon Gregory asked to share his personal perspective. We thank him for his openness and it is his hope that one more person will open up and talk.
On the 6th July 2021 my younger brother, Liam, lost his battle with mental health and took his own life at twenty-six years old. I was informed by his flatmate and, within an hour, two policemen were at our door. Nothing can prepare you for such a tragedy.
Just twelve months prior, Liam had walked the Appalachian Trail in America: 2,200 miles through fourteen States. It was a remarkable achievement of which I’m immensely proud; he accomplished more in his short life than most people do in a lifetime. When he arrived home from that unbelievable freedom, we were plunged into lockdown and he was back at my parents’ house, working from home in his bedroom. Lockdown was a tough time for everyone, and this seemed to be the beginning of the end for Liam.
“Liam took his life because he felt he couldn’t speak to anyone about how he was feeling, he was ashamed and embarrassed.”
Naturally, we were left with a lot of questions and for a time I was unable to focus on my daily life. My step dad reacted by wanting to distance himself from the issue as much as possible, going as far as wanting to tell people at work that Liam had died from a heart issue. Here lies the problem.
Liam took his life because he felt he couldn’t speak to anyone about how he was feeling, he was ashamed and embarrassed. Lying about what actually happened just adds to the stigma surrounding this awful disease. I presented my thoughts in a long chat with him, and he agreed that people needed to know the truth.
The disease is invisible. There are mostly no tell-tale signs that someone is feeling the way Liam did. The day before he took his life he was at my house, playing with my daughters and performing his usual fun-uncle antics, which I later realised was him saying goodbye.
“My advice is to tell your loved ones that you love them, every day without fail.”
The awful circumstances drove my family closer together than we have ever been; we appreciate each other so much more and it’s given everyone a new outlook on life. It’s made me look at everything differently: grateful to feel the sun on my face, taking pleasure from the simplest of things, holding my daughters tighter than I thought possible.
I’m by no means an expert on this topic, this is just my experience. My advice is to tell your loved ones that you love them, every day without fail.
This experience really hit home to me about prioritising how I feel and addressing my wellbeing. When things get too much for me, I like to spend time playing guitar (which I’ve done for twenty years now!) It gives me emotional freedom and puts me in a calm headspace. I also have two perfect daughters, Iris and Lyla, who bring me more joy than I could ever put into words.
Liam will always be my baby brother. Football in the garden ‘til it gets dark, wrestling, going down the Villa and calling me at 3am to ask for advice about a girl he’s just met.
Liam, you are smarter than you know and stronger than you seem. I’ll meet you at the bar, kid, my round.
If you have been affected by anything discussed in this article, please visit https://toughenoughtocare.help for advice on how you can receive support or help others in need.