Gary Strachan reflects on the need to smash the silence of suicide and encourages people to talk about how they are feeling.
It was at my son’s funeral in early 2017 that I realised that some of his friends were also struggling with their mental health. My son was only 34 when he took his own life and although very popular with a huge number of friends, he felt he ‘didn’t want to be here anymore’ – a statement that sadly crossed my path many times in the following two years.
It was in the later stages of an emotional funeral service that two of my son’s friends approached me, albeit intoxicated, but nonetheless opening up about their lives and how losing their great friend was going to make things unbearable. I talked to them briefly and made a note to call them in the coming days.
The lads were both nearing 40 years of age. I made a point to speak to them on a regular basis; one of which whom was battling issues with alcohol. I began to invite him to my house some weekends where I would purchase Box Office boxing, and indulge him in talks about his well-being, my son and the boxing, of course. This worked wonders for him – and also me.
As the months went on, I met other men who were willing to talk to me openly about their personal struggles and more importantly their suicidal thoughts; these meetings were often unplanned and would occur where I was training in the gym or doing my sprints at local public parks. I was beginning to notice different ‘signs’ in observation of these lads and one day whilst watching a young lad training alone on the next football pitch, I decided to go over and ask if he was okay. And he wasn’t. He said he had blew his place at university and was trying to piece his life back together again. I didn’t know him but he recognised me and trusted me enough to listen patiently as I advised him to start again and more importantly to try and come off the alcohol immediately and re-join the boxing class he used to go to in happier times. He agreed and I’m sure he’s now on the road to recovery.
By this point, I was receiving calls from other anxious dads who had tried ‘everything,’ went ‘everywhere’ on their GP’s advice and were now at their wits end after their son’s suicide attempts. One lad who was in his mid to late 20’s appeared to have everything and also came from a brilliant loving family home had hung himself and had actually been cut down by the police 2 days before I met him for an intervention over a coffee. He still had the marks around his neck underneath his tracksuit top. It was so difficult to hear the statement that was all too familiar to me – he ‘didn’t want to be here anymore.’ I feel this is sadly in the aftermath of too much alcohol or illegal substances.
The youngest lad I have tried to help was a mere 17 year old. His Dad whom I didn’t know previously had contacted me after his son had ‘gone off the rails’ and had tried to end his life recently. Again, he was from a loving, fairly wealthy and hard-working family who didn’t know what to do next. Most recently, I encouraged a young lad to re-join an elite Runners Club – he’s smashing it! As I write this, the lads are still alive and are coping in various guises, but they are alive and finding purpose.
While I do not have a degree in psychology, I know the hurt I have felt as a grieving Dad has been devastating. I feel the loss kills the remaining members of one’s family and so I urge loved ones to communicate openly before it’s too late. Let’s talk about these feelings.