Open Up: Mother’s heartbreak over son’s suicide led to inspiring campaign

John Linden, Sue Willgoss, Patrick Joice, James Bensly, Norman Lamb, and Tim Allard who are speaking

John Linden, Sue Willgoss, Patrick Joice, James Bensly, Norman Lamb, and Tim Allard who are speaking out about men's mental health. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

The loss of a beloved baby girl, bereavement, and depression are all topics touched on by contributors in the third day of this newspaper's spotlight on men's mental health.

James Bensly. Picture: James Bensly

James Bensly. Picture: James Bensly - Credit: James Bensly

James Bensly, Hemsby

I've always suffered with mental health but it was magnified on June 30, 2011 at 3.35pm when we had our beautiful baby girl weighing in at 8lb 10oz. After being with my amazing wife during a 23 hour labour and receiving the soul-destroying news that we had lost her was the turning point for me. I felt anger, frustration and total and utter disbelief.

I wanted someone to blame. I wanted to let out all of this negative emotion. I didn't know how, didn't know who to talk to. I could not speak to family members as they were suffering with their own issues. Things we can't control or do anything about are so powerful in the moment it consumed me/us and always will but I'm learning to deal with it by talking.

Talking to someone is a refreshing experience and it helps. When we lost our little girl people used to cross the road to avoid conversation. I don't blame them it's just us as humans, especially men, don't know how to act in certain situations.

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So ask, talk, cry whatever you need to do but people are there for you and with this coverage hopefully we can have the conversations that are needed. Men exchange information we don't talk. Please let's change that.

Patrick Joice. Picture: Patrick Joice

Patrick Joice. Picture: Patrick Joice - Credit: Patrick Joice

Patrick Joice, South Raynham

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In March 2018 I was diagnosed with terminal cancer, only expected to live for another five months or so. As you can imagine the world came crashing down around us. Unfortunately, although I have beaten the original prognosis, there was worse to come.

Subsequently in November I was diagnosed with severe depression, something I didn't believe in thinking folks just needed a good kick up the backside, including myself.

I ignored this diagnosis feeling that I could push through it. A concerned friend had contacted a support organisation called YANA, who contacted both my wife and I separately and we both started seeing counsellors through them but I was still in denial.

In December on a family holiday to see my wife's family in Australia the depression really hit home. Fortunately, her family had experience of depression, recognised the signs and literally dragged me to see their family doctor. She was very good, helped me understand what was happening, prescribed medication and I slowly came to terms with the fact that the brain can become broken just like an arm or a leg.

Sue Wilgoss. Picture: Sue Wilgoss

Sue Wilgoss. Picture: Sue Wilgoss - Credit: Sue Wilgoss

Sue Willgoss, Lowestoft

I'm mother of four boys, Matthew 28, Jamie 24, Elliott 22 and Daniel who we lost to suicide at just 25 years old on June 17 2018, Fathers Day. The loss of Daniel is heartbreakingly huge.

Daniel had autism and then significant mental health problems following a head injury (post concussion syndrome) in a motorcycle accident in April 2010. He took his first overdose in the December that year and made many more attempts on his life in the following years.

We launched #liftloudfordanny just after his death because something positive had to come out of our loss, we have a number of aims, one is having a suicide crisis centre here in Lowestoft in Daniel's memory. We run support groups twice a week and always here to listen.

Tim Allard, Norwich

Tim Allard. Picture: Tim Allard

Tim Allard. Picture: Tim Allard - Credit: Tim Allard

Everything starts with, and all else is a response to, the mind. The majority of our time is spent with thoughts and feelings that jump around like monkey's in the trees.

External pressures such as work, money, politics, relationships provide us with uncertainty, ambiguity and constant change. Most of us are terrified to feel deeply and afraid to experience our emotions.

Getting to the root of existential fears can open us up to appreciation, beauty, gratitude and joy. How we choose to live our lives both generally and in the moment are a result of mind. Turn off the phone, look up at the clouds, go for the walk, reach out to people, be still, generate positive emotion. It is our responsibility to find purpose, meaning and connection for ourselves.

For some mental health is a serious clinical condition. For the majority it is choice that requires attention and getting beyond that we are separate and the centre of the universe.

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk

North Norfolk Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb. Photo: UK Parliament

North Norfolk Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb. Photo: UK Parliament - Credit: UK Parliament

My family has been significantly affected like many other families around the country, we as a family were let down by the NHS as well.

Our eldest son was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder as a teenager, now in a much better place and my older sister Catherine took her own life in 2015 after a period of deep clinical depression. We were told that we'd have to wait six months in treatment for our eldest son and here's the real injustice, we could afford to pay to get help, but most people can't.

If you can encapsulate what drives me to fight for change it's that injustice that people are left waiting interminably for help, and so I continue to fight for more money for mental health.

I did that as a minister. With the way the NHS works, it constantly disadvantages mental health. The income for acute hospitals has continued to go up - as demand has risen - but mental health and primary care has lost out.

John Linden, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, Dereham watch manager

John Linden, watch manager at Dereham fire station for urban search and rescue. Photo: NFRS

John Linden, watch manager at Dereham fire station for urban search and rescue. Photo: NFRS - Credit: NFRS

I've felt I've had mental health issues for the last few years, it all came to a bit of a head about a year ago.

I was suffering from PTSD type two, I was also suffering from depression and anxiety which made me feel like I couldn't do my job on certain days.

It's not an illness that goes away overnight and despite having lots of counselling I think there will always be things in the background. But the most important thing for me now is to recognise when they become a problem and seek appropriate help and support.

I'm also very keen to help other people and promote awareness in the service and our communities that it's really important to get the help, and it is available. When I went off work I had immediate support from my line manager,and also some senior officers in the service, they realise the state I was in and situation. The counselling has helped a lot, and sharing experiences with other people both locally that I know and nationally.

In this special report this newspaper has brought together the first-person stories of 20 people - mostly men - who have experienced mental ill health, as well as the families affected when help has not been sought, and professionals trying to help.

Over four days this newspaper will be sharing the stories of men, their families, and health professionals, to show it is okay for men to talk about mental health.

- To share your story and get involved, tweet or send us a video using the hashtag #EDPOpenUp and tag @EDP24 - you can also email

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