In April, Ella Rothwell’s 23-year-old brother Freddie died by suicide – less than three years after her eldest brother Jack attempted to take his life. On International Men’s Day, the singer pays tribute to Freddie and
encourages men to seek help
It’s impossibly hard to accept – or even believe – that Freddie is gone forever, especially when just seven months ago he was living with me in London and had his whole life ahead of him.
I wish I could tell you there were warning signs of my brother’s depression, and that I’m kicking myself for not seeing them. The truth is, with Freddie, there were none. Whatever pain and sadness Freddie felt was completely hidden from the world. He was the life and soul of the party; my hilarious, fun and confident little brother.
But he wasn’t taking care of himself, physically or mentally. A lack of labouring work forced him to return home to Bristol, and he was going out five times a week, drinking and consuming cocaine.
He committed suicide after a night out with mates. He was staying with my dad, who was away that night, and before he ended his life he sent a long, drunken text message to his best friend, who read it when he woke up the next morning.
What makes this situation even more traumatic is Freddie lived through my older brother Jack’s suicide attempt in 2017. Jack openly suffers from depression, and at that time he abused alcohol and substances too.
His attempted suicide aged 27 left him in intensive care in an induced coma, and sadly the nasty substances in his system have caused irreversible long-term memory loss. But today, he’s clean, found love and has a career. He feels grateful for his life and for being found in time by my dad, and I feel Freddie would have regretted his attempt too. Sadly he succeeded.
In the text Freddie sent, he wrote that he didn’t think anybody liked him, and that he hadn’t got a place in this world. I was utterly shocked to learn this, because that’s not how he portrayed himself. Whereas with Jack, you could see his pain and the signs he was suffering from depression. Freddie didn’t let on at all.
After nearly losing Jack, my parents separated. My dad also suffers from depression and living with her husband and son took its toll on my mum, because all you want to do is make sure the people you love feel good about themselves, but there is very little you can do.
Jack, Freddie and I all had lovely childhoods. I’m very defensive of my parents because I don’t want people to think the boys didn’t want to be alive. That’s not the truth. This was a consequence of mental health combined with external factors of adulthood.
My story is a sad one, but I don’t want people to feel sorry for me – all I want is for people to be kind and empathetic, and remember you never know what is going on in someone’s mind and in their life. As a professional singer, I sometimes think about writing my story into a song, but at the moment it is far too painful and raw.
There have been days when I feel like my world is completely broken, days that I’ll cry just because I can’t stop the tears coming. Freddie was just the most charming, gorgeous human being and I miss him every day. I used to take drugs recreationally but since everything happened I won’t touch them, and I find it very difficult being around people who are using them. I enjoy a drink but never to excess.
I feel very strongly about speaking openly about my situation because if I don’t, I’m adding to the stigma. We need to talk about men’s mental health issues. I also want to be honest about myself. Following Freddie’s death I’ve been visiting a therapist, as well as taking anti-anxiety meds, and I’m proud to say this because there’s nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to mental health.
If you are worried about someone or would like to talk, please call The Samaritans at any time, day or night, on this free number: 116 1232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (you will receive a reply within 24 hours).
Jack Rothwell is taking part in this year’s Movember campaign – to help raise awareness for men’s mental health and suicide prevention – by growing a moustache. To help Jack reach his Movember target, you can donate here. Visit Movember.com to learn more.
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