Earlier this year, on the 10th of February, I was preparing for what I always perceived to be the biggest rugby match of the year - England vs Wales. The next thing I knew, two police cars, along with my parents and my younger sister, Rosie, turn up at my university house in Bath to tell me that my brother had taken his own life that morning, aged 22. Never in a million years would I have ever envisaged this happening.
Ted was fortunate enough to have a great group of friends and a close and loving family. He had likeability and a special aura about him that even strangers were often in awe of. Of course, I am biased as his proud little brother, but he was one of those guys who, on the surface, had absolutely everything going for him; he was intelligent, a talented sportsman and was always the life and soul of every situation. I’m sure to some (including me at times), it was frustrating that whatever he put his hand to he was good at, although his humble nature made it slightly more bearable. Having graduated from Bristol, Ted moved to Swansea to study medicine with the aim of becoming a doctor.
The topic of mental health and suicide is something that I now immensely struggle to hear about or discuss. The majority of the time I find myself choosing to shut myself off or remove myself from certain situations as I simply cannot comprehend what has happened and I refuse to believe the truth. Ted and I coexisted and since his passing, it feels as if everything good in this world has vanished. After what has and always will be the worst year of my life, you would think it could not get much worse. However, a few weeks ago, one of mine and Ted’s oldest rugby mates at Monmouth RFC also took his own life.
As one of my friends recently said “When you lose someone you love to suicide, as opposed to, say, old age or some sort of illness, something strange happens to your brain. The first reaction, at least for me, was one of total denial.” How can it be that the guy who everyone looked up to and aspired to be can get to this point? It is tricky for people to empathise with mental illness as opposed to physical illness as it is often a lot harder to see. I wake up every day struggling to make sense of what has happened and that is me, his brother, who supposedly knew him inside out. So, if I cannot understand it, how can I ever expect anyone else to? It was only the night before that we were on the phone to each other having our weekly rugby chat before the highly anticipated rugby match. He seemed completely fine, laughing and joking, showing no signs that this would be the last time I would speak to him.
As many people say, “we are put on this planet to survive” and people, for the most part, will do whatever it takes to do that. However, when the unthinkable happens and someone takes their own life there is not only a huge degree of devastation, but also a number of unanswered questions. I am well aware that mental health is a taboo subject for many, but the statistics in this country on suicide are harrowing, particularly for young males. I would be lying if I didn't say that prior to the loss of Ted, I would hear about these awful statistics in the news, hang my head in disbelief and sympathy for the individual and the families affected, but after a few minutes go back to leading the happy life of Max Senior.
Since the tragic loss of Ted, my family and I decided to set up the Ted Foundation to honour Ted, with the expressed wish of trying to reduce the stigma attached to mental health. Young men can be completely blindsided whether it is a traumatic event, in the case of Ted, or depression that will not leave. The foundation has already raised an unbelievable amount of money and that is credit to Ted who spent a large part of his life helping others and working for charities. I do believe that discussions relating to mental health are beginning to improve, but when you consider that suicide is the most likely cause of death for men under 45, the enormity of this issue could never be more real.
On October 17th, myself and 12 other close friends cycled from the Welsh border town of Monmouth (where Ted, Rosie and I went to school) to Amsterdam - a mere 400-mile trip. In Amsterdam we were joined by over 20 others who had cycled from various other places in the UK including Bristol, London and Stroud. The same weekend saw over 60 people run the Amsterdam Marathon in support of the Ted Foundation, raising over £75,000 as a grand collective. The total raised since my brothers passing is well over the £100,000 mark which is beyond incredible. This not only shows the amazing support shown to me and my family, it also highlights how special Ted was and the humongous impact he had on so may people's lives.
Living without the most important and influential person in my life seems unthinkable and intolerably scary. I can say, first hand, that the pain of losing someone through suicide is beyond unthinkable and at times unbearable – to the point that you cannot even physically move, eat or sleep.
The Ted Foundation is soon to be granted its official charity number and will contribute to reducing the frightening statistics associated with male suicide by working alongside medical schools and universities. The continued support has been truly amazing and thank you will never ever be enough.