LOUISE Atkinson, 36, a nurse, lives in Bridgwater, Somerset, with her husband Joe, 43, a teacher, and their children Stanley, six, and Connie, two
”I will never forget my brother Ian’s trembling voice as he told me he’d tried to kill himself.
It was May 2004 and Ian, then 28, had woken up on his bedroom floor after he’d attempted to hang himself.
When I got off the phone, I couldn’t stop shaking.
Even as a child, Ian was a sensitive soul.
Three years older than me, he’d always been funny and popular and we were incredibly close.
But he took everything to heart, and if things went wrong, he became despondent.
Although he fulfilled his dream of joining the police in 2003, within a year he’d lost his job as he just wasn’t cut out for it. He grew very depressed, but until that terrible conversation, I hadn’t realised how bad things were.
Following his suicide attempt, Ian was hospitalised with clinical depression for a month.
Our parents Steve, now 66, and Margaret, 65, had no idea as he didn’t want them to worry, so I became his main support.
Even with very strong antidepressants, Ian suffered from insomnia and black moods.
The depression was often so severe he could barely function, although he somehow managed to train as an occupational therapist – ironically in mental health.
At times, being Ian’s rock was tough. I worked long shifts as a nurse, and I had my own life to lead.
But he gradually felt better and things started to look up for him. He had a job he loved and he was open with a small number of supportive colleagues about his mental health problems.
Over those next few years, Ian seemed to grow stronger and even told Dad about his suicide attempt.
Then in September 2011, a girl he’d dated for a few months broke up with him.
Ian found this hard, but when I spoke to him, he sounded more fed-up than depressed, so I didn’t panic.
But at 8pm the following night, Dad rang – and his words will stay with me forever: ’It’s Ian. He’s done it.’
I listened, stunned, as he explained that Ian’s worried boss had called the police after he hadn’t shown up for work and she couldn’t get hold of him. Ian was discovered dead, hanging in his bedroom. He was 35.
Completely broken, I sat crying with Mum and Dad and my sister Naomi, now 22.
We agreed right from the start that we’d be honest about his death.
So I spoke at Ian’s funeral about his depression. Some people were shocked, but after years of seeing him suffer in silence, we were not going to feel ashamed of his illness.
Grief changed me. I saw the world differently and started to question everything.
A year later, I was diagnosed with depression. I’ve had therapy and rely on antidepressants. Unlike Ian, I’m open about my illness and won’t let shame or fear make me feel worse.
Nearly four years after Ian’s death, I am determined to destroy the stigma surrounding mental health, as well as raise money for those suffering. In May, I took part in the Mind 3000s – a sponsored 24-hour, 50km trek in the Lake District – and have raised over £3,500.
I couldn’t save Ian, but I hope I can help people who are suffering like he did.”
There were 4,858 male suicides in England and Wales in 2013 – making it the most common cause of death for men under 35.*
You can support Louise by visitingMemoryspace.mind.org.uk/memoryspace/ian-paul-carter.