When people feel hopeless and can’t see any way to make things better, they sometimes want their life to end. But things can get better.
If you feel suicidal and need help straight away, call either:
Childline: 0800 111
Samaritans: 116 123
Alex’s Story - as told by his mother
Poppy Hocken lives in Bath and has 4 children. Poppy had worked as a nurse- and married a doctor. However, they divorced when the children were aged between 10-15, which was a difficult time for all.
Poppy enjoys keeping fit and has achieved several tough fitness challenges including trekking to Everest Base Camp! Poppy also enjoys acting and singing.
Alex was born on 1st July 1985, eldest of 4. Alex was born in Exeter, but later the family moved to London, this is where Alex spent most of his early years growing up. He was a fairly easy baby- he was shy but extremely bright; he was picked out at nursery for his exceptional art and maths skills. Alex was eight when the family moved to Marlborough and finally to Bath when he was in year 9 where he attended King Edwards private school. Alex went to a total of five different schools, which in hindsight Poppy feels did not help him. After Poppy and Alex’s dad divorced- Alex took on ‘Dad’s role’ and always looked out for his Mum and other siblings. Alex finished secondary school with a total of 11 A* GCSE’s. Alex then went on to take his A-Levels.
Alex attained a place at Sheffield University to do a Mechanical Engineering degree. To help fund his degree, Alex worked as a Healthcare Assistant. Alex joined the University dive team and was passionate about extreme sports, like rock climbing.
Alex achieved his Mechanical Engineering degree, but soon realised it wasn’t for him. Alex moved back home to Bath and went on to Bristol UWE to start a nursing degree; he cycled there every day and continued to work as a healthcare assistant.
Alex took part in the Erasmus Programme set up by the EU and went to Finland, to work as a student nurse for 3 months. However, whilst he was away, Alex had a skiing accident suffering a severe fracture of the leg, which required surgery. This was carried out in Finland and after 2 weeks he was flown home by air ambulance.
He was house bound for months and being such an active young man this obviously had a huge effect on Alex’s life and mental health.
About a year after the accident, Alex’s leg still had not healed and he spent a great deal of time in his room, unable to get out much. Depression took hold and Alex was prescribed some anti-depressants by his Doctor. Alex also started to buy sleeping tablets online and started to rely on them. Poppy became concerned about Alex’s mental health but didn’t know where to go for help or support. Alex took an overdose of tablets and was admitted to hospital. Alex was referred to see a psychiatrist. Alex got help for his addiction, went through some counselling, and eventually his leg started to heal and all seemed to be moving in the right direction. Finally after 18 months Alex returned to Bristol to finish his nursing degree.
The week Alex took his own life, he had worked four 12 hour shifts and had very little sleep. He went to stay with his girlfriend in Poole. They argued and during the evening, and due to his emotional mental state, he took an overdose of tablets, he told his girlfriend but unfortunately she did not believe him and they went to bed. Alex said he did not want to die but sadly he never woke up!
Poppy said Alex often kept his feelings and anxiety to himself as he did not want to bother anyone or feel judged.
Did you (Poppy) know of any mental health and wellbeing organisations before Alex took his life?
Not really, Poppy used OTR Banes for her daughter who struggled during her teenage years following the divorce.
At the toughest times, what about Alex is it that you (Poppy) remember the most?
Poppy remembers Alex, when he was a little boy. “He was such a pretty boy. An absolute angel.” In reception, Alex won the ‘kindest person’ award- he was always helpful, considerate, sensitive and very well behaved. As he grew older, Alex was known for his inappropriate jokes and for knowing A LOT! He also grew some (amazing) dreadlocks!!
What is it that made you (Poppy) want to work with organisations like us?
“It’s very simple. I want to raise awareness of young people’s mental health- particularly in young men.” When Alex took his life, Poppy was shocked and unaware that the statistics showed suicide was biggest killer of young men under 45.
Poppy feels we need to become aware of children’s mental health as soon as a baby is born. Poppy spoke about the pressures start as soon as they are institutionalised, and come into contact with their peers. Poppy believes schools should be more open and aware of children’s mental health.
Is there anything that organisations like OTR can do to prevent other young people feeling a similar way to Alex?
Continue raising awareness of young people’s mental health and suicide risk. Poppy emphasised that mental health effects everyone of us even the privileged, like Alex.
Poppy also spoke about the power of exercise for our mental health and that OTR and other organisations can help promote and encourage young people to engage more in outdoor activities.
Words of advice from Poppy
To a young person - “We often feel like everything is wrong in our lives, it’s okay to admit to feeling anxious and depressed but there’s never a time where taking your life is the answer. There are people that can help you. Tell your parents if you can, or someone you trust about the way you are feeling.”
To a parent/carer - “This is not your fault. You are not the only family going through this. You need to get help and support for yourselves as well.” Poppy spoke to us about how she believes there needs to be more support out there for parents/carers. Poppy also spoke about how she wants to continue to raise awareness of young people’s mental health and how in the future she would love to help in anyway she can within schools and any young person organisations. This will be her legacy to Alex as she never wants other families to suffer the loss her family have.
Organisations that Poppy would guide young people and parents to for help and support regarding suicide and mental health:
“Love is a doing word” - Alex
Before Alex passed, Alex spoke to his mum about how he would like to work with a mental health charity. Poppy see’s the work she is doing as a way to continue Alex’s legacy.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please get in contact with us
If you need some help urgently, please call (available 24 hours a day)
Samaritans: 116 123
Childline: 0800 1111
(Available 5pm- midnight)
(Available Mon-Fri: 10am-10pm, Weekends: 2pm-10pm & Bank holidays: 2pm-5pm)
PAPYRUS: 0800068 41 41