Mum remembers beloved son two years after his suicide as she plans 21st party to raise awareness of mental health

Daily Record Lion

“Why is it socially more acceptable to talk about cancer and get the correct medical help than it is with mental health?”

By Katrina Tweedie 

 

LYNDA WALLACE and the rest of her family will mark Craig Wallace’s 21st birthday with a charity ball to raise money and awareness for the Scottish Association for Mental Health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Craig, second left, with Fraser, second right, and stepbrothers Andrew, left, and James, right
Craig, second left, with Fraser, second right, and stepbrothers Andrew, left, and James, right

 

PROUD mum Lynda Wallace is busy planning a party to mark the 21st birthday of her son, Craig.

There will be friends, laughter and ­embarrassing pictures of him growing up – but Craig won’t be there.

A talented guitar player, popular with girls, with a loving family and a good job, Craig took his life two years ago, aged 19.

Lynda likens her son’s battle with his mental health to a diagnosis of cancer.

“Following his first attempt at taking his own life in October 2010, we had periods of remission before it eventually came back and killed him a few months later,”

she says.

“Why is it socially more acceptable to talk about cancer and get the correct medical help than it is with mental health?”

But talk about it she will, ignoring her nerves to stand in front of an audience of more than 500 people at the Craig Wallace Memorial Ball, to raise money and ­awareness for SAMH, the Scottish ­Association for Mental Health.

She will remind people about her son who had everything to live for but just didn’t believe it.

Family for Lynda will always be four boys – her own sons Craig and Fraser, 22, and step-sons James, 17, and Andrew, 14, who happily became an extended part of the group when Lynda married their dad Steven Friel in 2010.

Even today, it remains a ­boisterous, busy home in East Kilbride, where they live, but there will always be an empty chasm in the space where Craig should be.

 

Fraser, stepdad Steven, Andrew, mum Lynda and James

 

 

“Life has changed for us, we’re trying to adjust to a future that we didn’t anticipate,”

says Lynda, 46.

His illness came from nowhere, she adds.

“Craig was a typical happy, healthy teenager with an amazing personality.

“He could make friends with anyone but he was sensitive and always felt sorry for people less ­fortunate than himself.

“He wanted things to be simple in life, uncomplicated, and always wore his heart on his sleeve.

“He had a great job as a trainee dispenser for Boots, his own car and love of music and playing guitar was his passion.”

The family didn’t see Craig’s first suicide attempt coming at all, but it gave Lynda a chance to talk to her son, to reach out and try to make him feel better.

“He opened up about how he was feeling,”

she says.

“To hear your son state that he didn’t want to live, as he felt worthless was devastating.

“This was the beginning of what felt like a long journey and struggle ­desperately trying to support Craig but also trying to seek out the correct medical help that we felt as parents he needed.

“We walked on eggshells trying to baby-sit Craig from a safe distance, giving him space but also trying to look for any sign that perhaps he was struggling again.”

Nurse Lynda and Steven, a police officer, tried desperately to be “normal” at work, supporting the other boys but living with the absolute terror that Craig might try again.

Then again, in May 2011, Craig made his second attempt.

“To find your son ­unconscious in his bed and contemplate having to resuscitate him was horrific. I could barely find a pulse and could hardly rouse him,”

she says.

A week’s assessment in hospital followed and despite him opening up to staff about how bad he was feeling, no treatment or follow-up was given.

Meanwhile, Lynda was inwardly falling apart, unsure what to do next and where she could get help, with lots of questions but no answers.

When Craig returned home, he smiled, told his mum he loved her and reassured everyone that he was fine.

 

Lynda wants to end the stigma of talking about mental health
Paul Chappells/Daily Record 
 
 

“You’re probably thinking we had a ­miserable, unhappy, sullen teenager,”

says Lynda.

“Far from it – Craig latterly put on an amazing mask most of the time.”

But a mother’s instinct told Lynda her son was not himself and each time he went out she faced the same terrifying question – would he come back?

“The utter desperation as parents that we couldn’t help our son was at times ­unbearable. We never had tears, tantrums, bad words. He always told us every day how much he loved us, we just knew when things weren’t right with him.

“The day he died, we had the same sense of foreboding but little did we know we had less than 24 hours with Craig in our lives.

“Despite the attempts he’d had, we really didn’t anticipate that at some point he would be so determined to end his pain.”

If Lynda thought that finding Craig in bed was bad, nothing prepared her for the knock on the door, for the police standing there, saying a body had been found by a man walking his dog. It was her precious boy.

Because Craig had made two previous suicide attempts, Lynda had the opportunity to talk to him and say lots of things she might not have done otherwise.

“He knew I didn’t want to live my life with three boys, I had four boys that I loved madly and didn’t want it any other way,”

she says.

“He knew that we would do anything to try and help him. The day he died he unloaded all his feelings and told me how much he loved me and knew I loved him but it wasn’t enough.

“We know that when Craig died, our friends were holding their own children tighter – if it could happen to us, could it happen to any typical teenager?”

A month after Craig’s death, Lynda learned about SAMH, who had just launched their Suicide Prevention National Programme.

It aims to increase knowledge and understanding of suicide, improve ­opportunities for people to access the right help sooner, boost mental health and ­wellbeing in Scotland and reduce the stigma of suicide.

Everything that Lynda feels might have helped her son tackle his demons and perhaps mean he would still be here today.

Now, raising awareness and offering support is very important to the family, who felt they had nowhere to turn during Craig’s battle with mental health problems.

The charity have launched their Two Too Many campaign, because every day in Scotland, two people die as a result of suicide – and each of those people is ­someone’s son or daughter.

Lynda adds:

“Everyone has mental health and we need to break down the stigma and increase the help available.

“Apart from us, nobody suspected that Craig was struggling. He continued to work as a trainee dispenser and socialised with his friends and girlfriend.”

Fundraising for SAMH has given the family renewed purpose, and Craig’s older brother Fraser, who works in TK Maxx, persuaded their Glasgow store to adopt SAMH as their charity of the year.

SAMH has since worked with the TK Maxx team setting up a mini mental health resource centre in their staff room and spending time talking to staff.

Now, as Lynda and the rest of her family prepare to mark the coming of age celebration that Craig will never see, with their charity ball in May, it is harder than ever.

“Learning to live a life without Craig at times feels impossible and our family will never be complete with four boys but only three with us,” she says.

“Trying to ensure others don’t need to endure the pain of losing someone they love by supporting this campaign helps.”

 

The Scottish Daily Record

Comments
  • Colin Wilson February 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I’ve been there in Craig’s place, and wore the mask for many, many years – it was only when I heard about Aspergers Syndrome at the age of 40, followed by a complete mental breakdown a few months later that I was able to start to be open and honest about just how bad I’d been feeling. It didn’t help that I also suffer from chronic back pain, which I had trouble seeking help for – probably as a result of the Aspergers. Twenty years of pain is bad enough, without any other issues to juggle.

    Three years later, I’ve been on several anti-depressants (changed as a result of revised maximum dosage / pain management referral), and although it took some time to get to a level that worked for me, you’ll know when it’s working as it should.

    If there’s anyone out there who’s feeling bad / stressed / internally tortured and unable to express yourself to say how bad you’re really feeling, don’t rule out medication as a potential help – I did for years, and it really *can* help.

    If you’re feeling like you might want to injure yourself, please get yourself to the nearest A&E – they have an on-call psych who can see you very quickly and get the ball rolling from there.

  • "Scrounger" February 21, 2013 at 3:19 am

    I also have been in the same place and wore the mask for many, many years.
    I suffered a complete mental breakdown in my late 20’s and spent a year in a psychiatric hospital.

    I’m now in my 40’s and still have to take things one day at a time, as being bi-polar really is severe “highs and lows”.
    Medication really DOES help balance me out.
    Though what helps me most, is having friends in my local support group. They understand (from personal experience) what it means to be mentally ill at times.
    We meet often for a cuppa and a chat. The topic of conversation rarely touches on our various problems, our medications or our treatments. We just have a good natter and a bloody good laugh! When one of us is having a bad day, we know the others genuinely empathise.

    This was a revelation to me when I became unwell enough to be hospitalised. I had struggled along for nearly 30 years, thinking I was alone in how I felt, behaved or reacted.
    It was like the sun breaking through the clouds to realise there are people, (both professionals and fellow sufferers), who truly understand.

    SAMH have some good resource links, please check them out. These folks really, genuinly care!
    http://www.samh.org.uk/our-work/samh-mental-health-information-service.aspx

    I would strongly recommend folks to check out the brilliant debate on mental health held in the House of Commons on Thursday 14 June 2012.
    If only all debates in the house were as full of honesty and openness as this!!
    I’ve taken quite some time to compose this comment as I still find it hard to discuss, (even anonymously!), my personal struggle with mental ill health but I take courage from Kevan Jones and the others who spoke candidly during this debate (and also from folks like Colin Wilson above!!)

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120614/debtext/120614-0002.htm#12061445000002

    http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=10885
    (starts roughly at 13.26:45)

    I will echo Colin Wilson’s comment above and add a wee bit:
    Anyone out there who’s feeling bad/stressed/internally tortured and unable to express yourself PLEASE don’t rule out medication as a potential help – I also did this for years, and it really *can* help.

    If you’re feeling like you might want to injure yourself, please get yourself to the nearest A&E – they have an on-call psych who can see you very quickly and get the ball rolling from there.

  • Humanity2012 February 22, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    I Still am Angry Rightfully with the Boneheads who Voted ” Conservative ” in 2010
    and the Mess the Tories Liberal Democrats have made of the UK is Diabolical

  • Graham Barnett February 24, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    I have been there also. I have had 5 nervous breakdowns in my life, the first when I was 19 years old. I am now 60. Don’t know why I am inclined to have them.

  • You must be logged in to comment. Log in
%d bloggers like this: