On Sunday 28th April 2019 I shall be doing the London Marathon in memory of my brother Steve. Those of you that know me, know my story, those of you that don't please read and if it has made any impact at all please donate what you can! It has been hard writing this but I hope by putting my story out there I will be able to raise as much money and as much awareness for the Mind charity, to help people to talk openly about their mental health, to help rid the stigma! Remember 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year ....
My beloved brother Steve was just 43 years old when he took his own life in January of 2018. He had struggled with his mental health for many years (depression, anxiety, paranoia), effectively ending his career as an architectural assistant, but it was in November 2016 when he made his first serious suicide attempt. He was admitted into our local hospital where he was assessed by the mental health team and admitted onto a mental health ward. He was in for only a week when they discharged him home. Unfortunately over the next few months we noticed no improvement in his mental state, his behaviour became even more worrying and on March 21st 2017 (I remember this date as it is my birthday) we had a phone call off the police saying that they had picked my brother up from Southern Down cliffs, Bridgend (a well known suicide spot). A member of the public had phoned them concerned about his welfare, as they reported he looked distressed and was pacing the cliff edge. The police took him in under the Mental Health Act and transferred him to a nearby hospital. There he was sectioned and put onto a mental health ward. It was then we realised just how much his mental health had deteriorated. He was in hospital for around 3 months, they diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia and put him on medication. When he was discharged it was lovely, he was so much better. It was like I had my old brother back! He was smiling and laughing again, and it was just so good to have him home. A couple of months after Steve being discharged he decided he no longer needed to be on his medication (Steve had such a negative view with regards to medication as he truly believed that it made him worse!). After liasing with his mental health team they agreed to this. The first couple of months he seemed ok, but as November/December 2017 approached we noticed a major change in his behaviour again. He became very withdrawn and detached, and his mood became low. My mum had reported this to his mental health nurse but Steve denied anything was wrong. On 17th January 2018 my sister had visited him at his flat (which Steve had tried to dissuade her) she reported his behaviour as very erratic, shakey and withdrawn. The next morning we had called round to the flat again but there was no sign of him. He had left his phone and also missed an appointment with his mental health worker. We were seriously concerned and so reported him missing to the police. The next couple of weeks were a blur. The police searched his flat and in a couple of the bins they had found ripped up suicide notes from Steve. A major search involving the emergency services and also social media and local press was conducted. We had to view cctv footage of potential sightings, and the last sighting we had of Steve was on 17th January 2018 at 11.30pm walking through our local town, after that we had nothing. We were desperate and longed for more information. The 1st of February 2018 will be a date that I will never forget. We had a phone call off the police to say that a mans body had been found on Pendine Beach, around 19 miles from our home town of Carmarthen. Identification confirmed it was my brother Steve. Post mortem concluded that he had drowned and the police believed that Steve had entered into our town river on the night of 17th January and then 2 weeks later his body had come up on the beach where he was found. We were absolutely heart broken.
Mental health really does need positive recognition, particularly for men, and not be a hidden taboo topic. Suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45 in the U.K. I feel honoured to support and promote the Mind charity through doing the London marathon and it's fundraising. If by sharing our family story just one person or family benefits in some way, I will have achieved something huge. The marathon itself will be an enormous physical and emotional challenge, but will be nothing compared to the mental and physical struggle my brother must have endured every single day for many years. It has been so hard adjusting our lives without Steve, but I want to do this in memory of my brother, for Mind and for everyone struggling with their mental health.
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