A mental health activist has described how his family has learned to rewrite family celebrations like Christmas since his younger brother died of suicide when he was just 15 years old.
20-year-old Ben West from Cranbrook, Kent, has campaigned for better psychiatric care since his brother Sam died in January 2018. He has criticized UK universities for not doing enough to protect students’ mental health and warns: “There will be more suicides.” during the lockdown.
Ben described to FEMAIL how his own family dealt with the grief over the loss of Sam that he still can’t believe his brother left, and describes how he was 100 percent convinced the night he died that he just had a bad dream.
Sam had struggled with depression the year before he died, but didn’t want his classmates to find out that he had mental health problems.
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Ben West’s younger brother Sam, 15 (pictured), committed suicide in January 2018; and Ben has since worked tirelessly to improve teen mental health services
The picture Ben took to prove he wasn’t having a bad dream. He says, “After doing CPR at CPR, I went downstairs and really thought I was dreaming.”
West says universities should do more to help isolated students during the lockdown
The mental health activist, a third year student at Liverpool University, says: “Every day I hear stories from people who have failed mental health.”
Remembering the night his brother died, Ben said, “After doing CPR with Sam, I went downstairs and really thought I was dreaming.
I thought I had a lucid dream and took a picture of all these ambulances. To this day, it almost feels fictional.
This time of year remains extremely difficult for Ben and his family, and he says they had to find ways to find a new way to spend the festive season and New Year.
“When you are going through loss it is such a difficult time because Christmas is all about happiness. The fact that you are not happy makes you so isolated and it transmits that pain. Everything you do that is normal almost leads you back to what it was. And then it leads to these feelings of guilt, anger and sadness. ‘
The first Christmas after Sam lost, the family went to the mountains so we could ski and be active all day. You’re trying to celebrate a new Christmas so you don’t wish for the old one. ‘
Ben and Sam pictured together. Sam had struggled with depression in the months before his death, but was afraid his co-workers might find out
After successfully lobbying the government for more training for mental health teachers, the activist says he was disappointed with a “slight” four percent increase in government funding
The virus will lead to suicide. Many students at the university came to an absolute mess of an answer. The universities were caught with their pants down – they had no idea what they were doing …
Ben West, mental health activist
Ben campaigned for better teacher education on teen mental health issues with his Save our Students campaign, and last year tabled a petition to Boris Johnson, which the Prime Minister supported.
However, he says the Tories’ pledged four percent increase in mental health investments in 2021 falls pathetically behind what it takes to bring the UK down suicide statistics.
In 2019, 5,691 people died from suicide in England and Wales, an increase of 321 from the previous year, the Samaritans say.
“The NHS mental health services are so good and the people who work there, many of them are absolutely fantastic. But the amount of resources that go into it is just wrong. You need innovation to save lives, and if it’s just a small four percent increase, how will that work?
The universities should be ashamed of how they have reacted to the crisis so far, says Ben. Many freshmen faced a “mess” upon arriving on campus
He adds, “The time has come now that you are unlikely to get professional help from the NHS unless you are suicidal. Imagine this scenario in a cancer ward! “You have a tumor, but come back later. ‘”
The National Union of Students (NUS) announced earlier this month that more than 50 percent of students surveyed in November said their mental health has declined since the pandemic began.
Ben is determined that more needs to be done to help the students or the country will suffer more suicides. Universities should be ashamed of how they reacted to the crisis.
Rising suicide rates in the UK
In 2019, 5,691 people died of suicide in England and Wales, an increase of 321 from the previous year – the equivalent of around 11 deaths per 100,000 people.
One of the most alarming statistics is the rise in the number of young women who are killing themselves. The suicide rate among women under 25 has increased 93.8 percent since 2012, with the highest level in 2019.
Source: The Samaritans
‘The virus will lead to suicide. Many students at the university came to an absolute mess of an answer. The universities were caught with their pants down – they had no idea what they were doing. ‘
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen people fight and some may have died from the stress.”
The mental health activist says he never believed how his life would have changed after Sam’s death and hopes he can continue to use his social media platforms for positive change.
“I have been introduced to this world. I have such a great passion for it, a burning passion not just for what happened to me personally, but I hear stories of people who have failed every day and it ignites such frustration that I just couldn’t imagine Not having any platform where I try to change things. ‘
For more information on the Save Our Students campaign, see change.org/saveourstudents
For confidential assistance, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit a local Samaritan office at www.samaritans.org