A mother today bravely opened her heart to plead with other troubled people to seek help after her “loving, caring and sensitive” son wrote about his own tragic death.
Talented musician Brett Robertshaw timed a haunting blog revealing his battle with depression to go online after his death.
Mr Robertshaw’s body was found in his bedroom on Hall Avenue, South Shore by his aunt Kelly on July 5 – seven days before the blog appeared.
The posting, which appeared on his music blog Bassection.co.uk, chronicled the 21-year-old’s fight with depression and the stigma attached to it.
Today, his family have spoken out about his death in the hope it can inspire other people to get the help they need to fight similar illnesses.
Brett’s mum Cheryl Robertshaw, 46, said: “We thought if we could raise some awareness about mental health problems, that there is help out there, but people need to be made aware of it.
“Phone numbers and things are not given to people and if it can raise awareness for one other family, can help somebody and their family and stop them going down the route that Brett did – just anything to help.
“It can stop a family going through what we are going through at the moment.”
Grandmother Margaret Robertshaw, 68, added: “It’s just so tragic that somebody so talented couldn’t get the help he needed.
“For a 21-year-old boy to go to the doctors and say I’m depressed, help me. He didn’t want to admit to it because of the stigma of what people thought and it’s wrong.”
And Brett’s aunt Kelly Dixon, 35, said: “I think that is another thing, the fact that it did take him a long, long time to pluck up the courage to speak to a doctor, because there is such a stigma. He was such a young lad, it is not something often spoken about and the fact he was on medication and had been referred for counselling, but these things take so long.
“There is not enough help for them out there.”
In the blog, found by police, the former Palatine High School pupil and games store worker talked about his concerns about maintaining friendships, anti-depressants, his use of alcohol, his attempts at finding help and bullying at high school, which he said sparked his depression.
Cheryl said: “He talked to me about how he felt – he went out at 3am in the morning once. I texted him saying come home and he did. When he came back he broke down crying, saying I’ve got depression.
“He said nothing feels like it should. I checked with him every day and he would say he was OK. He said he didn’t want to worry me – it was the type of lad he was.
“The day before he died he came bounding down the stairs saying ‘old woman are you not in bed yet?’ He had a wicked sense of humour.
“He came down to let the dog out – absolutely no different to usual. I had to go to hospital and could hear him pottering about. I spoke to him, told him where I was going and that was the last I heard of him.”
Kelly found Brett’s body in his bedroom.
Kelly added: “It was devastating when I found him. The blog made us understand what he was going through – he left a note to the family. The note did explain a lot more to the family.
“It was a shock a week later when the blog was posted, saying why. We had no idea to the extent – it was such a surprise.”
Brett’s funeral was held on July 17 at Lytham Crematorium, with the popular musician receiving messages from fans as far away as London, Kent and Scandinavia.
His family said he had planned to go to Japan next year and teach English to students. Kelly added: “He had the best sense of humour ever. He was so sarcastic and would wind you up. He was caring, sensitive, thoughtful and creative.
“He was in a band. Music was a massive part of his life.”
A spokesman from Lancashire Police confirmed the body of a 21-year-old man was found at the address in Hall Avenue on July 5.
He added the death was not being treated as suspicious and had been referred to the coroner’s office. An inquest has yet to be held.
The family said they hoped Gazette readers could use Brett’s story to highlight depression - and urged others to seek help.
Cheryl said: “Open up and talk to anyone – there is help out there. There are organisations out there – so many organisations. If you are feeling that way there is extra help. We want to get the message out there for friends, for family, there is help out there.
“For that one person, if it helps it is worth it.”
Kelly added: “We are all going to have our regrets about not picking up on signs, but if you have friends or a young relative who is struggling – somehow try and get through to them.
“There should not be a stigma – years ago it used to be cancer, the ‘big c’. Now it is mental health and it should not be a stigma anymore”.
Brett leaves mum Cheryl, dad Paul Huxley, nan Margaret, sister Suzanne, his auntie Kelly and nephew Jakobi.
A Just Giving page has been set up to raise money for Mind, the mental health charity. To donate, visit www.justgiving.com and search for Remembering Brett Robertshaw.
If this post is live I’m probably not here any more.
My brain and my mindset
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt void of all emotions except sadness, and worry. “I’ve felt nothing towards family members, friends, or otherwise acquainted people, as much as I’ve felt that I should, like any normal functioning being. No matter how many good things happened to me or the people surrounding me, I didn’t seem to feel any positive emotion at all.
“I showed a lot of symptoms of schizophrenia, especially over the last couple of months, including both visual and auditory hallucinations, and the insomnia, and paranoia that I’d already been suffering for so long. I was never diagnosed, because I guess I was just too worried about the social stigma that’s placed so heavily on people with such conditions. I was worried that people would hate me even more if I was actually diagnosed, so I tried to keep it to myself.
“The truth is, I’ve felt suicidal since I was in high school, and told nobody of it until very recently. The only comfort to me for the past six to seven years has been knowing that if I don’t get better, if I can’t deal with things, or if things become too much for me to cope with, I have a way out.
“It may seem strange to read, but I guess I saw death as my best pal.”
My “everlasting” relations
I also had major problems with maintaining proper “friendships” with people, partially due to the fact that I didn’t feel like people actually wanted to be friends with me.
“I guess in the end, I never was a good friend to anybody. I didn’t know how to be.”
My “temporary escape”
“I’d spent probably close to two years binge drinking. I lived with my mother, and had very little outgoing on bills, so 90 per cent of my wages were going on alcohol – anything with a high alcohol percentage, just in order to get me drunk as fast as possible. When I was drunk, I could cope just that little bit better. It wasn’t a cure to my problems, but on many occasions, as much as I hate to say it, it stopped me killing myself.
“This is just one of many things that I managed to hide well for a long time without people realising.”
“Is it just outright depression? I don’t know, but I never thought anything of it until a few years ago, when I finally realised that this wasn’t “just the way I am” and that it was actually a problem. I finally decided to go to the doctor’s about it earlier this year. I was given anti-depressants, referred for counselling, referred to the psychiatrist, and even contacted by the “Crisis team”
“Did any of this help? Not at all. I felt worse. I had horrendous nausea from the medication, had no appetite, I was getting even less sleep than usual (an hour a day if I was lucky) and I was feeling even more suicidal than ever before, because of worry about all the appointments that I had to go to, and having to talk to people about this.
“I felt like a lost cause, like I couldn’t be helped. I suppose that I thought there was no way at all of me ever shifting this, because any attempt to get better seemed to go the opposite way and make me feel worse.”
Wrapping it all up
“I don’t want to spend any more time than I have already suffering, and trying to get better. This is my decision to make, and I believe that everybody should be able to make that decision themselves, regardless of age.
“If it’s selfish of me to make the decision to end my own life, is it not also selfish of others to expect me to suffer a lifetime for their own sake? Is it too much of me to ask that I have a path to get away from my own mind torturing me?
“Nobody could begin to understand what was going through my head, even regardless of everything I’ve said here.
“Nobody is to blame for this, except myself. It’s entirely my own fault, and only my own lack of willpower and strength of mind is to blame. My inability to cope with things is the killer here.
“Don’t be sad that I’m gone, just be happy that I’m not suffering any longer.”
‘Children need more mental health education’
A bereaved mother today said more needed to be done to educate children earlier about mental health.
Linda Jones, 60 of Norbreck, is working towards making issues around mental health more accepting after her own son, Matthew, took his own life five years ago when he was 17.
Matthew was bipolar, and had been bullied for several years before his death.
She said: “There is always a stigma around mental health problems, and it will be there until we can educate from school age up wards and get children used to the fact you can have an illness in your brain as well as in your body.
“People with mental health issues are referred to as ‘mad’ or a ‘loony’ or whatever, and the only way past it is education.
“It does help when people with mental illness, especially famous people, admit that they have these problems.”
Mrs Jones said it was part of mental illness, particularly depression, that those suffering it would not want to speak about it, and it makes them withdrawn. They have less self esteem, confidence and self-worth,” she added.
“We just have to encourage people to be more open.”
Elaine Walker, head of mental health at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said mental health problems were more prevalent than people realise.
She said: “One in four of us will be affected by mental illness in any year. The effects are as real as a broken arm, even though there isn’t a sling or plaster cast to show for it.
“Mental health problems are common – but almost nine out of 10 people who experience them say they face stigma and discrimination as a result. This can be even worse than the symptoms themselves.”
Elaine recommends anyone who thinks they may have mental health issues should visit their GP, but there is also a Time Change campaign, which she says is the biggest programme in England to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination.
She also recommends The Five Ways to Well-being programme, which offers a set of evidence-based actions to promote people’s wellbeing.
She added: “The Five Ways have been used by health organisations, schools and community projects across the UK and around the world to help people take action to improve their wellbeing.”
Leon LeRoux is a senior consultant psychiatrist at Parkwood at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
He is urging people who suspect they may have mental health issues to contact their GP.
He said: “We all go through the blues, but if you think you are getting depressed and you see it as a medical problem go and speak to your doctor. Most GPs do effectively treat those first initial stages of depression but when they see it as more deep-seated they refer on to us. I would always encourage speaking to a GP if you can’t speak to your family or friends.”
Dr LeRoux said his approach to mental health was an empathetic one to get to know a patient, and for the patient to know him and feel comfortable around him.
He added: “Yes, there is a stigma attached to mental health, but at the end of the day the person is more important than the stigma.
“I’ve been a psychiatrist since 1996, and attitudes have changed very little around mental health. The key is to keep talking about it in the media. It may take years, but I do believe we can bring about a change in the way people think about mental illness.”
Dr LeRoux has also called for more investment into the education of young psychologists, and dedicating more time in medical training to psychiatry.
n This week it was revealed that more than 300,000 people in the North West have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.