The sister of a hero hospital worker who tragically took his own life says she be grieving for the rest of her life as she begins raising cash to help those in mental health crisis.
Charlene Marsden, 33, has also opened up on her own battle with insomnia, a condition that saw her brother enter a ‘mental health spiral’ prior to his death.
David Marsden, a much-loved and popular lab worker at Stepping Hill hospital, was found dead at the family home in Stockport on November 21, 2019, aged 22
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An inquest into his death last year heard David, from Adswood, first began struggling with insomnia during a family holiday in the summer of 2019 which he was forced to cut short.
He then fell into a ‘vicious cycle’, becoming so anxious about his normal life ‘slipping away from him’ that he became increasingly mentally unwell during episodes of depression, anxiety and insomnia. He spent some time on a psychiatric ward at the hospital where he worked and had been allowed home on leave at the time of his death.
The five-day hearing at South Manchester Coroner’s Court in Stockport heard he died as a result of toxicity produced by ingesting a chemical, which the Manchester Evening News chose not to name. It is not illegal in the UK but the inquest heard that it is worryingly ‘increasing nationally’ as a feature in suicide cases.
Charlene said her entire world was turned upside down following her brother’s shock death. “He was my younger brother and there was a bit of an age gap but anyone would tell you, we were like twins,” she said.
“We shared the same interests, the gym, Game of Thrones, all sorts of things. We would literally do everything together, and watch all the shows and movies together. He was literally my best friend.
“He was loved by so many people. And it’s sad because my brother was the person who all his friends, family, and colleagues, including myself, would go to for advice and help when we were feeling low. He knew exactly what to say His smile would light up the darkest of rooms, but unfortunately, when he found himself in a dark place there was just no way of getting him out of it.”
“I don’t think there’s a lot of awareness of sibling grief and what it does to you,” Charlene added. “They are the ones you think will be there when your parents pass. They are your past, your present, and your future so when you lose them at such a young age it’s just so tragic and upsetting.
“I think I’ll be dealing with this for the rest of my life. I probably cry most days about him to be fair. There will always be something that will remind you and you’ll suddenly be in tears. But it’s something I Guess you learn to live with as hard as that sounds. You carry it around with you, and after a while, it gets lighter, but it’s always there.”
For more information on the fundraising or to donate, click here.
So overwhelming was her grief that Charlene said it triggered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as her own terrifying bout of insomnia.
“Last year before the inquiry it happened to me,” she said. “I can’t even put into words what it was like. But I understood completely what he must have been going through.
“I had to have three months off work as my mum was terrified it was going to happen to me. I think it was just to do with the grief and the mental issues it had caused. I went three weeks without sleeping. It was horrendous .
“Once you get up having not slept all night you become terrified of the evening that’s coming next because you think ‘am I going to lie there awake all night again.’ Your appetite goes completely and you feel sick.You’re running on empty, you’re like a zombie.
“I had hypnotherapy, counselling, the lot. But I’m just pushing through as for me it’s like I owe it to my brother. Just to show him that I can do it.
“Obviously it destroyed my brother and I’m not going to let it destroy me. I’m providing it to him, that it doesn’t matter how bad things get, you can push through it.”
Last year, after posting on social media and receiving a flurry of messages from other people who had had similar experiences, Charlene, and her and David’s mum Fiona Marsden, set up a local support group for those bereaved by suicide and began holding monthly meetings at the Xenos Haven Wellbeing salon in Heaviley.
“I’m not saying suicide is worse of a death than any other but it is very tragic and you do grieve in quite a different way,” Charlene said.
“There are a lot of ‘what ifs’, ‘could haves’ ‘if only we’d have done this’ and ‘why didn’t we know this was gonna happen?’ as it’s out of the blue. So talking to other people who had been through the same thing was a massive help” she said.
As well as helping each other, Charlene and the roughly other members of the ten-strong group now have now come together in a bid to help those going through mental health crises.
They have decided to climb Wales’ highest mountain Snowdon in order to raise vital funds for four specially-chosen charities which are close to their hearts.
They are aiming to raise more than 500 for Stockport-based mental health charity Open door, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, men’s mental health charity Andy’s Man Club and Once Upon a Smile which supports all those who have lost loved ones.
Charlene’s daughter, David’s much-loved 13-year-old niece, Chantae, is also taking part, with Charlene’s and David’s cousin Adrian who was formerly in the Royal Marines acting as a guide and support during the climb.
“We just want to spread awareness and raise as much as we can for these charities,” Charlene said. “And I think that funding is vital at the minute as demand has gone up massively and there just isn’t enough funding there.
“The climb will be a challenge but also really symbolic as I’m still climbing a mountain with my grief. But I truly believe it’s helping. That’s why it means so much to all of us.”
Samaritans (116 123) samaritans.org operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at [email protected] , write to Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, STIRLING , FK8 2SA and visit www.samaritans.org/branches to find your nearest branch.
For support for people feeling suicidal, if you are concerned about someone or if you are bereaved by suicide see http://shiningalightonsuicide.org.uk
CALM (0800 58 58 58) thecalmzone.net has a helpline is for men who are down or have hit a wall for any reason, who need to talk or find information and support. They’re open 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year.
Greater Manchester Bereavement Service Greater Manchester Bereavement Service can help to find support for anyone in Greater Manchester who has been bereaved or affected by a death. No one needs to feel alone as they deal with their grief. www.greater-manchester-bereavement-service.org.uk
Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.
PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organization supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
Beat Eating Disorders: Beat provides helplines for adults and young people offering support and information about eating disorders. These helplines are free to call from all phones. Adult Helpline: 0808 801 0677, Studentline: 0808 801 0811, Youthline: 0808 801 0711. www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk
Anorexia & Bulimia Care: ABC provide on-going care, emotional support and practical guidance for anyone affected by eating disorders, those struggling personally and parents, families and friends. Helpline: 03000 11 12 13. www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/
Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts. Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying studentsagainstdepression.org
For information and links to charities and organizations that can help with substance abuse, visit https://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/drugs/
Charlene intends to sprinkle some of her brother’s ashes at the summit. “I know the views will be beautiful and I have loved nature,” she said.
“I am in awe of all the members. I’m in my thirties but several of them are older and have health issues. But we’ll just take it at the pace of the slowest climber and if we reach the top we’ve donate our bit for those who need our help the most.
“With mental health being paramount I go through life now with the motto ‘in a world where you can be anything, be kind.’ One small act of kindness could save a life and that’s what will be driving us on the day.”
For more information on the fundraising, or to donate, click here.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.