A mother who lost two sons to suicide in as many months in urging those in need to seek help.
James Lane, 23, was found hanged a fortnight ago and placed into an induced coma for six days before the decision was made to turn off his life support machine.
He had previously found his brother Dai, 28, who killed himself less than two hours after laughing and drinking with his family, WalesOnline reports.
Speaking to his mother Michelle French the night before Dai’s death he said he “wanted to be like” his older brother.
Now, a week after James’ death, their mother has spoken about their devastating loss to try to prevent another family going through her pain.
Speaking from her home, in Abertillery near Newport, Michelle said: “I just don’t understand it. The beginning of this year I had seven children. Now I have two missing and they took a piece of my heart with them.
“I’m not ever going to get that back and that’s what’s killing me.”
Growing up life was a truly family affair. With five boys and two girls, there were always plenty of people around and fun to be had.
Even at a time where he was the only child living at home, Michelle would often find her second eldest son Dai surrounded by friends playing video games – a trait which continued through his life.
Michelle, 48, said: “He was a very likeable little rogue. He was a little handful but aren’t all boys? Climbing trees and doing things all boys do. He would bring me worms when he was little.
“He was a good kid – he never whinged.
“He liked gaming. At the time I wouldn’t have the [other] kids, just him, and I would have a houseful of other people’s kids, I would have them all.
“He was amazing with children, he had a knack with them. He would have been an amazing dad but he never got the chance.”
The former rugby player and Pokemon enthusiast had been laughing and drinking with family less than two hours before his body was found.
For Michelle, the shock which surrounds it, and the questions she is left with, are difficult to bear.
She said: “I can’t understand why he never came to me – I’m his mam.
“He knew he could talk to me about anything, it didn’t matter what it was.
“The night before he was sat here and we were having a drink.
“I have taken overdoses in the past and he would always say to me ‘man up’. [That night] he sat there and said ‘I’m so sorry I told you to man up, I shouldn’t have done that’.
“Thinking about it now, he did seem a little bit depressed but not to the extent that he would do something like that.
“If he was that depressed that he did that, he was a good actor.”
For Michelle, the reason for speaking about Dai and James’ deaths is simple. By speaking publicly about her pain, she wants to encourage other men to speak out about their mental health and seek help.
Michelle said Dai’s mental health got worse over the last three years and he stopped playing rugby. She said he was hit by a car while on his bike and chipped a bone in his hand causing him to be off work.
“I think that depressed him a little bit more,” she said.
“I haven’t grieved for David and I can’t. Until I know [my children] are done grieving I can’t. I have to look after them, I’m their mam.”
On the mantelpiece in Michelle’s living room sits two pictures of Dai. One shows him dressed in a suit, smiling at the camera. The second – a selfie – was the last photo taken before his death.
Nearby Dai’s dog Patches sits on the sofa, while behind that lies the furniture his family have had to remove from his flat.
Michelle is now waiting for a canvas of James to arrive along with a memory box containing James’ hand print and hair.
With the coroner yet to formally release his body, the family must wait before they can decide on a funeral date when James will be buried with Dai in Blaina.
Michelle said: “James was into everything – he would climb trees, everything he wasn’t meant to do he would do as a child.
“He was mischievous, but not in a bad way. He had his problems but we thought he was getting there.
“The night before Dai died James said he wanted to be like Dai.”
On April 14 James was found hanged in Abertillery. He was rushed to hospital and from there put into an induced coma.
The decision was made six days later to turn off his life support.
Michelle said James’ decision to accompany her to identify Dai was something no brother should have had to go through.
“Not only did he find his brother hanging but he was there when I had to identify his body,” she said.
“I said to him he needed help, we all did. We said he needed to see someone and we said the same to [James’ girlfriend] Annalise.”
In November 2018, James’ life was going from strength to strength. He had met his girlfriend Annalise and soon after that he got new job.
She added: “He was a good worker. They were going to offer him a full-time job, they said he was polite, he was on time, hard-working, he would help everyone.”
As an organ donor, James’ kidneys, liver and pancreas have now gone on to help four other people after his death.
Michelle said: “The thing that happened to James is dreadful and he’s not coming back – as much as I want him to he isn’t.
“But we know that someone else will have a better life from him. In a couple of weeks we will receive a report about how [those] people are doing.”
Despite still coming to terms with her family’s loss, Michelle is determined to make a difference.
At a time where suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45, she wants to encourage them to ask for help.
She said: “Because of the way my boys died I wouldn’t like to see anyone else go through that.
“Men’s mental health needs to be addressed. And it’s not just men, it’s boys as well.
“There’s still a stigma to mental health and it’s been stuck there for such a long time.
“To help ourselves we need to speak out, and it doesn’t make anyone less of a man for it. It’s not a bad thing to say you need help.”
A fundraising page has now been set up to help Michelle and her family with the costs of arranging James’ funeral.
You can donate here.
For confidential support the Samaritans can be contacted for free around the clock 365 days a year on 116 123