Hi, I’m Mel. If I was to introduce myself to you, I feel that ‘bereaved by suicide’ is what now defines me and my life at present, but I’m working on not feeling so defined by the tragic events of 23rd August 2015 when my only child Jake, took his own life after a 10 month battle with mental health and substance misuse (the ‘Benzo’ trap). Jake fought hard to live and I fought hard to save him. It wasn’t to be.
Grief is exhausting, but it also gives me a sense of achievement and new opportunities as I build a different future to the one that I was expecting. After Jake died I tried to carry on working in Further Education, teaching Psychology, Health & Social Care and managing a large and diverse Curriculum. It took me quite some time to realise that I could no longer thrive on the stress that this kind of job brings, and that the experience of desperately trying to help Jake and then losing him, resulted in what I now Know to be, vicarious trauma. I reluctantly walked away from a 20 + year career in Education.
My new life is writing freelance, which I find so therapeutic. I started to write about what happened to Jake and I wrote an article entitled ‘How can you fight so hard and lose?’ https://thebookofman.com/community/making-sense-of-suicide/ This piece looks at the devastating impact that ‘disconnected services’ had on Jake, at a time when he desperately needed help. I wrote a follow up article entitled, ‘Suicide, Preventable or Inevitable?’ https://thebookofman.com/mind/mental-health/suicide-preventable-or-inevitable/This piece explores what Jake’s experience would be today. I focused on the missed opportunities identified in the Regulation 28, issued by the Coroner at the Inquest into his death and the lessons learned (which are the changes that make a difference for others, today). Both of these articles were shared online at the BOM.
I also write lesson resources for the new T-Level qualifications in Health Care. This work is published by NCFE examination board, but what I am particularly enjoying right now, is being involved in projects with the Independent Mental Health Network in Greater Manchester. My role is that of an Expert by Experience (bereaved by suicide). As a group we collaborate with Trauma Recovery Academy (GM Mental Health Trust) to co-produce Trauma Informed Mental Health Awareness Training which we are currently delivering to GM Housing Workforce.
I’m getting there and feel confident enough now to wait and see where my writing and projects take me.
Back in the day, the 80’s when I was in my teens, I worked as a model. I was based in Manchester and travelled to London, Paris and Tokyo. I loved it and wished I’d been more mature to appreciate the travel, culture and the sights. Great memories and photographs though. Jake loved my portfolio and I like to think that’s what sparked him to study Contemporary Photography, which he certainly had an eye for.
So that’s me, past, present and positive vibes towards my future.