5 November 2017

Time Management, mental health, lawrence Jones mbeWhen I first came to Manchester I stayed with a family for the first few months. They were family friends of ours and they had a son. He was a good friend. 

The earliest memories I have of growing up are of playing with him, from as young as five years old. We had great fun! But, as we grew up and began to carve our own careers, inevitably we drifted apart and didn’t see each other for a long time. A not too uncommon story from many friends I have made over the years. 

About four years ago, out of nowhere, I bumped into him, whilst working in City Tower, I was on lunch in China Town and there he was. We did that usual thing and said that we should arrange to meet up soon, then, of course, time ticks on. How many times have you done something similar? Seen someone from your past, said, “we should meet up,” genuinely meaning it, yet life gets in the way and it simply doesn’t happen?

Earlier this year he messaged me on LinkedIn and we chatted with a view to putting some time aside to see each other and catch up. I told Gail how excited I was and recounted stories of a time gone by. My first gig in the Apollo. PIL Jonny Lydon (Public Image Limited). But, despite my best intentions, again, we never quite made it.

Then, this weekend, I got an email out of the blue from one of his best friends. He told me that my friend had ended his own life last Monday. He had hung himself near to his old office.

It’s so final. That’s that.

Completely incomprehensible.

I had no idea that he was a person in so much pain. I can’t help thinking that if I had made more of an effort, made time, it would have been lovely to see him and he would have had another ear to listen. A shoulder to share his burden. What goes through my mind is obviously that I didn’t try hard enough to be there for him. I let a friend in need down. 

It’s a painful lesson, particularly at a time when we are talking more than ever about mental health. It is all too easy to dismiss the stresses of everyday life and to make assumptions about people. What people present on the surface is often very different to what they are really feeling when they are alone. The state of our mental health is often well hidden.

My friend was a solicitor and a businessman; he was well respected, fun and lively. Looking back, I remember that he had the biggest record collection that I had ever seen!

His friend told me that he had been unhappy for quite a while but what is it that makes taking your own life a better option than trying to get through the problems that you have? I suppose I am fortunate enough to not understand how that feeling happens. I am surrounded by some incredibly supportive individuals. 

Many years ago, when I was playing rugby for Ruthin School, one of the boys on the team had a fantastic father. His dad would be on the sidelines of every match, without fail. Then one day his dad wasn’t there. He had taken his own life. His dad was in such desperate situation that he chose to call it a day. Leaving his family and son behind. I couldn’t understand it then as a child and I struggle to comprehend it now.

His dad must have felt so alone and had a weight on his shoulders that he simply couldn’t bear. I don’t think that should ever happen to anyone.

We need to talk about mental health

It’s a reminder for us to question are we there enough for the people around us? Equally, have you got the right support in place to make sure someone is looking out for you? We place such a focus on our physical health, eating well and exercising when mental health is equally important. 

Our lives are short enough as it is. For somebody to chose to cut their life short is desperately sad.

Our family friends were an extraordinary group of people, kind, generous and I am eternally grateful to them for taking me in when I was a teenager. I have some wonderful memories with them. A funny one when I asked to join their weekly game of scrabble. I was  told it would be a bit out of my league with one being a teacher and  the other an accountant. Call it luck, but I started the game with a seven-letter word and neither of them ever caught me up!

I played badminton with the father every week and he actually became my first accountant. He was a heavy smoker and died shortly after. It’s hard to imagine how my friend’s mum is feeling now. She’s a wonderful woman. I know she will be absolutely devastated.

I can’t imagine a world where I am not looking forward to the autumn leaves changing colour, or watching spring turn to summer. Building a family, helping others grow. These are  the things that help me keep balanced.

Whatever the things are that make you tick, that you love and enjoy most, whatever it is, go and do it. Don’t hesitate.

Whether its giving your loved ones a hug, walking in the park with your kids; get in the car and don’t waste a minute. Life is precious. Life is too short, way too short. And if there’s someone you think may need your support, give them a call or better still take them with you.

I am sure that there are many of us right now that he has passed away, like me, are regretting not taking more time to be with him.

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