Extraordinary People

Have you lost someone you love? Why we need to talk about grief

Charlie Watkins took his own life after losing his mother

It is often cited as our greatest fear, losing someone we love. Yet for something so life-changing, there is very little discussion about grief until it happens to you.

Consequently, many of us are ill-equipped to cope with bereavement and those of us left behind are at higher risk of major depressive episodes, anxiety disorders and suicide.

This is tragically what happened to Charlie Watkins, who struggled to adjust when he lost his mother at the tender age of nine.

At the age of 22, Charlie took his own life.

[Credit: Charlie Watkins Foundation]

His legacy now shines bright thanks to his twin brother Harry and their father Tim, who have set up the Charlie Watkins Foundation in his memory to smash stigma and get young people talking.

We caught up with Harry to find out more about their campaigning and how society can continue to evolve the conversation around mental health.

Harry said: “Charlie struggled with mental health, particularly depression, when we lost our mother at a young age. My father and I were not aware of his struggles until a few years ago and we actually thought that he was getting better before his untimely death.

“Bereavement is very tough to go through, regardless of whether a loss is due to mental health or otherwise. I think that there is a lack of focus on bereavement as a whole, but I also think that this is something we can help one another in.”

He continued: “It is always hard as some people can react very differently to a loss compared to others. I would just say to be conscious that loss affects everyone differently.”

[Credit: Charlie Watkins Foundation]

Harry and Tim now pour all of their efforts into the foundation so that no one else has to go through what Charlie did and no other families have to suffer the same loss that they have.

They work primarily on raising funds so that they can distribute them to mental health initiatives across the UK and are currently supporting two incredible projects.

The first is the Youth Enquiry Service (Y.E.S) which helps young people between age 11 and 25, within the Colchester and Tendring areas of Essex, who are facing difficulties in their lives.

The second is Student Minds who empower people in further education to look after their mental health, and they have an assessment tool which rewards universities that promote wellbeing.

[Credit: Charlie Watkins Foundation]

Yet Harry and Tim’s mission is only just beginning, as they hope the foundation will grow.

In particular, Harry believes it is crucial for charities to work together, rather than against each other, to help utilise the funds raised in name of mental health.

When asked about his own healing journey, Harry said losing his mother has made him somewhat more resilient to loss in general.

He explained: “Losing Charlie was definitely a hard time in my life. But I think that as I had gone through something similar 13 years earlier, it strengthened me to some extent.

“Time definitely does help you deal with a loss, but I would say the help that we give to the community through the foundation helps more. It is a massive boost intrinsically knowing that through Charlie’s legacy, someone else has been helped or even saved.”

[Credit: Charlie Watkins Foundation]

Talking about how they would like to see education change around suicide and suicidal ideation specifically, Harry said he believes that knowledge is power.

Harry said: “I think to some people, suicide can be quite a scary word, so they shy away from it. Yet education can come in the form of helping people, especially younger ones, understand that suicidal thoughts are not something to be embarrassed of or feel guilty about.

“Many people will have these thoughts in their lifetime, but they need to know that if they talk to someone about it, they are going to be supported.”

He concluded: “I believe that everyone should be informed about all the steps that can be taken to help them, so that they can reach out for support before it gets worse.”

For confidential advice, you can contact the Samaritans website, email jo@samaritans.org, and/or call 116 123 at any time of day or night.

To find out more about Harry and Tim’s work, click here: Charlie Watkins Foundation.


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