Michelle French has had to mourn both of her sons, Dai and James, who were both in their 20s when they took their own lives.
Michelle, who lives in Abertillery, South Wales, told WalesOnline: “I just don’t understand it. At the start of 2019 I had seven children. Now I have two missing and they took a piece of my heart with them.”
The Lane household was made up of five sons and two daughters. Michelle said that Dai, her second eldest boy, was a “likeable rogue”. She said he was always surrounded by friends and he loved playing video games. He was a machine minder at Tillery Valley Foods, a former rugby player and a Pokemon enthusiast.
She said: “He was a good kid – he never whinged. He liked doing things all boys do, climbing trees and he would bring me worms when he was little.
“He was amazing with children, he had a knack with them. He would have been an amazing dad but he never got the chance.”
Dai was only 28 at the time of his death on February 7, 2019.
Just two hours before his body was found, he had been laughing and drinking with family: “I can’t understand why he never came to me. He knew he could talk to me about anything, it didn’t matter what it was.”
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Michelle confessed: “I have taken overdoses in the past and he would always say to me ‘man up’. [That night] he sat there and said ‘I’m so sorry I told you to man up, I shouldn’t have done that’.
“Thinking about it now, he did seem a little bit depressed but not to the extent that he would do something like that.”
Michelle said that Dai’s mental health seemed to worsen when he was hit by a car when he was cycling. He chipped a bone in his hand which caused him to be off work.
Michelle said that James, who was 23 at the time of his death, had said that “he wanted to be like Dai.”
After the trauma which followed Dai’s death, Michelle said: “I told James he needed help, we all did. We said he needed to see someone. It is dreadful what happened to him, and now he isn’t coming back.”
Statistics from the Mental Health Foundation state that three times as many men as women die by suicide, with men aged 40-49 having the highest rates.
Michelle hopes that by telling her painful story she will encourage other men to speak about their mental health and seek help. She also wants to stop other families going through the same thing that she did: “Because of the way my boys died, I don’t want to see anyone else go through that.
“Men’s mental health needs to be addressed. And it is not just men, it’s boys as well. There is a still a stigma to mental health and it has been stuck there for such a long time.
“To help ourselves we need to speak out, and it doesn’t make anyone less of a man. It isn’t a bad thing to say you need help.”
CALM, Samaritans and Men’s Health Forum can provide support or resources about men’s mental health.
You can contact Samaritans confidentially and free of charge on 116123, email [email protected]samaritans.org or find the details for your local branch at www.samaritans.org.