I have spoken at my fathers funeral. I have spoken at my mothers funeral. Those were difficult and painful speeches to make – but what got me through those was that sitting in front of me was my family – my brother, my sister, my wife Joolz, my daughter, Cyan and my son, Cal. Cal would tell me after those speeches: “Dad, I am so proud of you for being able to do that.” And I would say: “Hey mate, it was only possible because I could see you in front of me”.
I never imagined that on March 26th 2021, I would be standing in front of family and friends – speaking about Cal.
When we lost our son Cal at 23 years old to the illness that is suicide in January 2021, we were broken and torn as a family. How could such a beautiful, happy and loved young man get to that point where the only option for him was to take himself out of this existence. His pain and daily struggles with depression and anxiety were so much more profound and deeply embedded than we were aware of as a family. So many people used to look at us as one of the ‘closest, tight and loving families’ they knew – it was even harder for us as his parents and his sister to come to terms with his departure.
There were 6,221 in the UK in 2020. That is the equivalent of 1 suicide every 80 minutes. Approximately 75% of these are male – it is the most common end of life cause in men under 49.
As a family impacted by this – we were compelled and committed to do all we can to reduce these numbers. Signing the authorisation form to commit Cal to his cremation at the age of 23 years old was by far THE most painful, heart-wrenching thing I have ever done in my life and will haunt me the rest of my days. I wish no father to ever have to do similar.
As a family impacted by this – we were compelled and committed to do all we can to reduce these numbers.
We set up The Calzy Foundation as a C.I.C in November 2021. It is a movement – a tribe – created by and led by young people: a campaign voice for young people who are silently screaming to express their pain, anxiety and their sense of chaos.
One of our key objectives is to offer as many free places on our new Mental Health First Response (MHFR) training as possible to young adults impacted by mental health trauma or crisis and who may have been impacted by peer suicide.
And on the auspicious date of 10th September, 2022 – World Suicide Prevention Day – we held our first round of MHFR training to 8 young adults who have reached out to The Calzy Foundation – touched by Cal’s story in relation to their own struggles and challenges.
MHFR is a unique training in mental health first aid. It combines a practical approach to mental health first aid training with up to date advice and strategies.
The course explores what mental health means and how it can affect our lives. Participants learn about the different conditions that people may experience and what they can do to help them and themselves. It looks at how reducing stigma and changing culture can help us all live mentally healthier lives.
Our MHFR training includes a section on ways in which young people can start to feel empowered to look after their own self-care.
Building resilience is at the heart of the course and alongside important mental health education, participants receive a package of self-care and evidence-based strategies for dealing with their own and others’ mental health.
Our aim through the next year is to continue campaigning and fundraising to enable us to offer a minimum of 5 free MHFR training places every 3 months to young adults who are struggling with their mental health or who may have been impacted by peer suicide.
It would be wrong to say that in the month’s since Cal tapped out of this physical plane on the evening of January 7th 2021, Joolz, Cyan and I have not had days where optimism, hope and a hold on the future have abandoned us. We have now experienced a number of painful and poignant ‘timestamps’: our first Xmas without Cal; the anniversary of January 7th; his birthday; seasons; moments. But it is by virtue of the fact that today we continue to be surrounded by so many who have, without hesitation, simply reached out to us in our pain and ever so gently, sensitively and with words of profound comfort, helped us stitch our hearts back together again. It is this that enables us to slowly open our eyes again to the future- a different future with Cal in spirit beside us.
The Calzy Foundation will continue to work towards that day when each and every one of our young generation can truly say: “Today is going to be okay – tomorrow now feels possible”.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alan currently works in senior management within Higher Education – however his background has predominantly focused around start-up businesses – ranging from complimentary health products to software development and digital media agency initiatives. In January 2021 – he lost his son Cal (23yrs old) to suicide. He and his family were devastated as they were very tight and close as a family of four. In his own words, ‘Cal is my best friend, he is my hero – he is also my son’. Soon after Cal’s passing he and his family launched The Calzy Foundation – to campaign for increased and accessible peer-to-peer support for young adults suffering trauma or crisis in their mental health; to de-stigmatise the conversation in young people around mental health and to work towards reducing the suicide rates in young people. They also campaign for the establishment of a distinct three-digit emergency mental health number – similar to 111. Alan is committed to encouraging more open; honest and transparent dialogue around mental health in young adults and especially in those who have been impacted by peer suicide.