World Suicide Prevention Day - Remembering Liam

Jo, a mental health nurse at SHSC, writes about her son and the impact his death had on her and his family.

Liam was tall, handsome and a very thin version of Peter Kay. His observational humour would have us all belly laughing and he was always an advocate for people who couldn’t stand up for themselves.

Unfortunately Liam was addicted to Ketamine. He was involved in a road traffic accident at the age of 16 and knocked of his moped. He suffered extensive injuries including massive head fractures, punctured lung and fractured femur and was on a life support machine for nine days. We really didn’t know if he would live and if he did, would he have brain damage?

He survived and slowly made a full recovery, but because he’d been in a coma, his sleep pattern was affected and he couldn’t sleep at night. An acquaintance of his offered him some ketamine to help him sleep and that was the beginning of the end for Liam.

To say that life with Liam was a roller coaster, would be an understatement!

As a Mum of 4, I spent my life trying to keep Liam safe and trying to reassure my other 3 kids that everything would be ok. It wasn’t ok and life was hell at times.

Liam’s Dad and I had divorced so my kids would spend time with both of us but as Ketamine took hold of Liam and I started asking more questions and trying to restrict Liam's movements, he rebelled and spent more time at his Dad’s.

We all suffered as a family and it almost destroyed my marriage because my new husband couldn’t bear to see how much Liam’s actions were making me suffer.

As time went on, I felt trapped as gradually my kids and husband were telling me that Liam was responsible for his own actions and that I’d done everything I could to help him. But he was my son and I loved him dearly and my heart was breaking to see this bright, vibrant, loving young man turn into a shadow of himself.

I watched him like a hawk whenever he was near me, and panicked if he went to the toilet or even put his hand in his pocket. I watched as he had urine infection after urine infection as his bladder and kidneys gradually rotted away due to the ketamine. I watched him writhe in agony with pancreatitis and spent so many nights in A&E with him because his body was basically failing him as he came down from a high after taking ketamine.

I listened to him as he lied to me, telling me what he thought I wanted to hear, that he was done with ketamine and wanted to be clean.

Liam even moved to Australia in an attempt to get away from his group of friends who were all taking ketamine or other drugs. When he left, I was heartbroken but strangely relieved, thinking that this was the new start he needed and that he would pick himself up, change his ways and start to enjoy life again. Liam came back to England 10 months later because he was so homesick and he missed his family.

Things went from bad to worse as he very quickly went back to his group of friends and the ketamine.

On September 26th, at 10.15pm, I received a phone call. I knew straight away that something had happened to Liam. My mind raced as I imagined what had happened. Had he overdosed, had his kidneys packed in? I was frantic as we drove down to his Dads house.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I was told. Liam had hung himself and my 18-year-old son had found him.

My life was a blur from that day on. I vaguely recall certain things like the police being harsh and cold. I remember watching the body bag with my son inside, being wheeled into the ambulance and I wondered who was screaming. It was me.

I remember Liam’s funeral and walking into church following his coffin that my 3 other children carried. I remember seen hundreds of people and later found out that there were over 400 people at his funeral. That was how popular my son was.

From the day that Liam died I just wanted to go to bed and not get up. I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t want to talk to people or have to think at all. I couldn’t close my eyes to sleep because all I could see were flash backs of the night Liam died. I remember feeling so grateful that I had three other children because they kept me alive. I put all my efforts into caring, loving and supporting them. They were suffering unimaginable pain, grief and loss. We all felt empty and talking about Liam broke my heart but I encouraged them to talk and to remember the good times. This is really difficult when the last five years of Liam’s life were hell.

In the weeks and months following Liam's death, we learned that he was in a massive amount of debt and that his life had been threatened by drug dealers. It became clear to us why Liam felt that there was no way out and why he took his own life.

As a Mum who is a Mental Health Nurse, I felt so much guilt that I hadn’t/couldn’t help Liam, that I hadn’t seen he was suicidal. I should have seen what was happening and I didn’t!

I think about Liam every day and I miss him beyond words. I cry quietly on my own so that I don’t upset anyone else and I am always looking at my grandchildren thinking how much Liam would have loved them. He adored babies and little ones. He was brilliant with them! It breaks my heart that he will never know what it is like to have a child of your own, to be a brilliant Daddy as I know he would have been.

My youngest Son Tom is now young ambassador for Mind. He also became suicidal a year after Liam died. Thankfully he didn’t turn to drugs and he began to talk about what had happened to him and to us. He has helped thousands of young people with mental illness by telling his story and I am so proud of him.

I lost my gorgeous boy but my kids lost their brother and their best friend.

jo sims, baton of hope, suicide awareness