Sam was a happy, cheeky, fun loving boy yet quiet, unassuming and shy. He spent hours playing sport and from the age of 7 through to the age of 16 he played a lot of football, cricket, tennis, athletics and then he developed a real passion for rugby union.
Sam academically was a bright, intelligent boy yet, like his sport a perfectionist in every way. His love of sport and being able to represent his school and local clubs gave him confidence and a sense of achievement.
At 15, Sam was diagnosed with a fracture in the lower part of his spine and despite every effort to treat, rehabilitate and recover, he was told at 16 he could never play any sport again. For someone who aspired to play at the highest level this was a devastating blow. Very quickly Sam's desire to engage with study and his friendship group deteriorated. Not that they didn't want to include and support him but he simply began to withdraw, he felt a complete failure. His anxiety levels increased developing into a form of depression manifesting itself in many ways.
Sam was unable to complete his A-levels and opted for a career in recruitment, determined to focus on making a success whilst battling with the insecurities he had. He took medical advice and received counselling for his depression and at this time pursued his passion for finance and economics and recently was training to become a Chartered Accountant. However, the fear of failure continued to haunt him, certain barriers he simply could not overcome.
Sam knew he was suffering with mental illness but felt embarrassed and ashamed. What others considered to be straight forward, he found an ordeal and it took strength of character and a fierce determination at times to overcome. He refused medication as again he saw this as a sign of weakness, but did eventually accept and for 18 months was treated accordingly. Friends, family, work colleagues, whilst unaware of the battle Sam faced daily, did see and experience the gently, loving, still unassuming yet professional character we all knew him to be. Despite this, Sam behind the mask was in turmoil, and remained a very private and proud man. All he wanted was to be happy, to be and feel normal around others.
On Friday 8th December however, he could cope no longer and tragically took his own life. This was not a cowardice act, his illness had overpowered him. Sam believed this was an end, not just to his own personal torment but also to those who had seen first-hand the challenges he faced which upset him so much.
Mental illness comes in many forms and is all around. More awareness is required in order to remove the stigma that comes with this, a chemical imbalance which cannot be seen but equal to anything we see as physical. We are determined to raise more awareness and shine the spotlight on the power of conversation #ItsOkToSay (from the charity Heads Together).
Sam was a kind, intelligent young man with a bright future, yet his illness prevented him from seeing and appreciating it.
So let's break the silence that surrounds mental health. Lets use Sam's story to create his legacy, good has and will come from this tragedy.