Time to Talk Day 2023

Wednesday, 1st February 2023

By Kirsty Collin – Global CRM Lead, Gleeds

In some ways, 25th January is worse for me than the actual anniversary of Ben’s death on 28th January. The 25th is the last day I ever saw Ben. The day that I kissed him and told him I loved him and walked out the door, not knowing I would never see him again. It was after Ben had executed a very clever plan, in order for him to execute his plan to end his life.

Ben had ‘suicide attempts’ before he was successful, but it was obvious (on reflection) that he didn’t want to and they were indeed cries for help. In 2018 he sparked a police hunt when he went missing and he ‘accidentally’ switched his phone on, which gave the police a signal in Glasgow, which meant we were then able to track him using CCTV and other intel and intercepted him at Ben Nevis.

The point of my post today is around prevention. I myself do lots of work around this but also, as someone who couldn’t prevent it, sometimes its like a sucker punch when you see the ‘just do this’, because I didn’t prevent it and it’s not that easy – there isn’t a silver bullet for this. I don’t beat myself up though – because I know that I did everything I could for Ben – but also, because as I will tell you now – sometimes, when people have made up their mind to go, they cover their tracks like a mastermind – because they have made that decision.

On Tuesday 21st January – Ben booked his flights to Amsterdam, using Paypal which meant that it wouldn’t come out of his bank as quick, which means we wouldn’t realise he’d gone abroad when we was an official missing person and the police were involved.
On the evening of 21st he convinced me to take my daughter out for some mummy/daughter time on Saturday in the day. I don’t normally have my daughter on Saturday as she’s with her dad. But Ben did a great job and was saying, ‘take her out for a long walk, just you and her, have some quality time. Don’t be on your phone, just switch off and focus on her’. He suggested walks quite far away. ‘Why not go to Alderley Edge, or Mam Tor?’. I was happy to spend the day with Izzy, but it was the end of January and it was cold, and I wasn’t feeling like a drive anywhere and wanted to stay local. Yet Ben kept on. He then said, ‘well make sure it’s a really long walk, go for lunch and gave me some money to treat her’. Which I agreed to.

Half way through the walk, I had this feeling that something wasn’t right (I have a sixth sense for things – I think that comes with being a super empath). I decided to switch my phone on and drop him a whatsapp message just to ask was he ok – it didn’t get two blue ticks – just the one. I sent a text message and it didn’t send.
The pictures below were taken at the same time – I took a selfie of me and Izzy while I had my phone out. The look in my eyes haunts me. I can see the worry. But why would I worry, it was only a gut feeling – Ben was fine when I left. Everything was generally ok. He was off work as he was, as most British Gas engineers are in winter, tired and stressed.
He’d been clever, because despite feeling like I wanted to go home to see if he was ok, the words he’d said like ‘spend the time with Izzy, just be you and her, just focus on Izzy’. He’d played a blinder. Izzy and I went for lunch, and I forced down the food because I had this uneasy feeling which made my appetite dip. I was trying my hardest to focus on Izzy and our time. It was another 3 hours before we got home.

As soon as I walked in and he wasn’t there, I rang the police – within 15 minutes. I didn’t even hesitate… but it was too late. He had the time to get out of the country. The 5 hours we had been gone, he had time to get the train to Manchester Airport and away. We only found this out 2 days after he’d been missing. He’s covered his tracks so well.

I had a diary sent to me from Hamburg, which Ben had documented the days before he died. I know everything – how he was feeling, what his plan was, how he’d executed it. How he’d picked up a temporary phone to see what I was doing in terms of tracking him and what I was sharing on social media. He knew we’d located him in Amsterdam and he fled to Hamburg. He went there because he thought it would be snowing and he wanted to die in the snow. All this is documented in the diary.

After he passed, I found his phone hidden in the gas metre cupboard, along with his house keys. And in his van was his expression of wish form on the passenger seat, re signed 25/1/2020 confirming that his wishes were still the same.

Like I said, a mastermind. We had NO WAY of intercepting him and no way of saving him. He had everything sorted and in place.

He went the way he wanted to, and nobody was going to stop him. This wasn’t a cry for help. This was the only way, in his mind, that he could stop the pain he felt from the cruel disease that is depression along with PTSD.

So why am I telling you this?

For me suicide prevention sometimes makes me question myself and if I did everything I could – I did. I know that – but other people who have been through this won’t. In fact, I’d bet 95% of people who have lost someone to suicide are left with ‘what ifs’ that haunt them. We talk about helping prevent suicide, but sometimes we don’t consider how this may make the survivors left behind feel. I read sometimes ‘every suicide is preventable’, its not. And people shouldn’t beat themselves up who have lost people in this way.

We can all be aware though and that is what raising awareness is so, so important – that is something that we can all do.

– You can be aware of changes in people
– You can be aware of different behaviours in people
– We can believe people when they say they are suicidal, and not dismiss it as ‘attention seeking’,
– We can listen,
– We can ask ARE YOU OK?
– We can try and signpost people to the wonderful charities around us, like Mind and C.A.L.M
– And we can talk – we can share our experiences, like I do for a greater good.

Let’s lift the stigma around suicide to make conversations easier – that’s what will help people. Removing the stigma not just for person we have lost to suicide, but also those people left behind – those that struggle with their metal health and those supporting someone with mental health issues.