“You are not alone and there are people out there who care,” is the message from a loving sister and her aunt, bereaved by suicide.
Not wanting any other family to go through their own shock and grief, Katie and her aunt, Steph, are now setting up a local group to help those who have experienced bereavement through suicide and for individuals who are suffering from mental health illnesses.
Katie’s brother, Alexander, was a seemingly happy young man with his whole life ahead of him. But at the age of just 22, he ended his life before Christmas. His sister said: “Alex was outgoing, caring, chirpy, and lifted everyone else’s spirits. He always thought of others before himself, and we had happy childhoods. Together we were a close, family unit. It is the last thing we ever expected to happen.
“He loved astronomy, his cactuses, which I am trying to look after – motorbikes and gaming. There really were no signs.”
The sad truth, highlighted in recent national news stories, radio debates and also by a campaign launched this week, shows that 84 men a week take their own lives in the UK, with suicide being the single biggest killer in men under the age of 45. Katie and her aunt are concerned that men (and women, of all ages), who feel unable to talk about their feelings, have nowhere to turn.
Steph said: “The reality of knowing what to do when something like this happens is a minefield for families who are completely devastated, so we have taken it upon ourselves to open a monthly support group for those suffering with mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, their families or people affected. We need to talk about the reality on both sides – it is ok to talk about it if you are suffering. It’s also ok to not be ok; people shouldn’t feel that they can’t talk about their thoughts and emotions.
“There are people out there who can help, and we want to be able to provide an accessible, free place in the Somer Valley. It is going to be an approachable, safe and friendly space, where we hope to signpost people towards support and be listened to. We’d like to be able to pool all of our information and knowledge together and make a difference by helping people.
“When Alex died we did feel alone. To this day, we have not received a call from a family liaison officer and we were left completely in the dark, not knowing what to do. The family received counselling through employers and recommendations from friends, but none of it was instant, and much of it we went through without help.”
The first monthly support group will be held on 3rd May and then the first Thursday of every month from 6.30 p.m. – 8.30 p.m. at the Salvation Army Hall, Radstock Road, Midsomer Norton. A representative from the Samaritans will be in attendance.
“We have had great support from many local people, with artwork by my friend, Sam, and leaflets and posters kindly printed by CFH Docmail in Westfield,” continues Steph. “We hope to leave them in Doctor’s Surgeries and anywhere they might be seen and help someone.
“Thanks to everyone who has responded with offers of help and support with this initiative – to Sharon Bond at the Salvation Army for providing a meeting place and local people with training in this field offering up their time to come along and guide us.
“We don’t understand why the subject is so taboo. It could happen to any of our families. It could be anyone.”
Katie adds: “We really want both sides to come together and listen to one another. Listening could be more helpful than anyone could know – and to know that you are not a burden, people do care and that your life matters. Even if we help just one family, or one person, setting up the group will be worth it.”
Those who would like to find out more about the support group can contact Steph on: 07543 001658 or visit: www.facebook.com/SuicideSalvation1