Taylor's story: raising awareness after my brother took his own life

My name is Taylor Kane McLaughlin and since 21 November 2017 I have been doing everything I can to get my life back on track.

Trigger warning - this story discusses suicide

Taylor is going to share his story about how his life has changed since his brother, Kirk, tragically took his own life. He wants to tell you about what Kirk went through, and about how since then, he has chosen to focus his energy on raising awareness around mental health, and looking after his own mental wellbeing. Taylor wants to share the message that it is okay to reach out when you are feeling not okay.

21 November 2017 - the phone call that would change my life

On 21 November 2017, I received a phone call from my sister with news that would change mine and the rest of my family’s lives forever. My big brother Kirk gave up his battle with mental health problems and tragically took his own life. Kirk was my best friend, my big brother and my hero.

Serving your country - my brother's life

Kirk served for his country in the Parachute Regiment (3 PARA), undertaking tours of Northern Ireland and Afghanistan. He saw things and experienced things that a normal civilian doesn't, and which later on in his life had a huge effect on him as a person.

"He saw things and experienced things that a normal civilian doesn't, and which later on in his life had a huge effect on him as a person."

Kirk got medically discharged in his twelfth year of service after suffering a severe hip injury. This injury stopped my brother from doing the things he loved, such as running, boxing and weightlifting. Kirk took this badly and found it very hard, especially after having been a paratrooper for near enough his whole life. Kirk then went on to have a major hip operation which left him bed-bound for a good three months and he never fully recovered.

Developing mental health problems - life after being discharged

Kirk developed a severe case of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and was also diagnosed with bipolar, depression and anxiety. He had trust issues and major paranoia which lead him to eventually live life in seclusion from the outside world.

My brother was in a deep dark place and, feeling he couldn’t fight the pain any longer, chose to take his own life and be free from the daily battle that he was in.

Raising awareness around mental health - my focus

Over the past year, I have worked closely with the Mental Health Foundation to raise as much money and awareness as possible. I have done my own Charity Football Fun Day and participated in the Virgin Money London Marathon 2018, the National Three Peaks Challenge and trekked the Great Wall of China, all in aid of the Mental Health Foundation but also, most importantly, in memory of my big brother Kirk.

Through doing these challenges, I have met the most inspirational, loving, caring people that I can safely say will be my friends for life. Not only has the Mental Health Foundation given me the opportunity to do these things to spread awareness but, through doing these challenges, it has helped me with my own personal mental health problems and, along the way, I have learnt that it is okay to not be okay and that someone is always there to listen if you are having a bad day. It is important that we look after our own mental health and that of others who are close to us, and it is essential that we talk about how we are feeling and, if we need it, know to ask for help.

"I have learnt that it is okay to not be okay and that someone is always there to listen if you are having a bad day."

Help is out there - I want everyone who is having dark thoughts to know this

Nothing I can do will ever bring my big brother back, and he will never know how much he was truly loved and of the devastation it has left behind for our family and loved ones as we try to rebuild our lives without him. I will always feel he chose the wrong thing to do by ending his own life and if he had opened up to us all deeply, and let us help him, I do believe he would still be here today.

So, I hope that anybody reading this, reads this, and knows if they are having any dark thoughts that help is there and people care, it’s so important to open up and let people know how you truly feel.

You will never know what someone is truly going through because it is so easy to hide your true feelings inside your mind, so it’s always important to be kind and caring and to go out of your way to make someone feel that extra bit special.

Nearly two-thirds of people say that they have experienced a mental health problem... let that sink in.

Ever thought of trekking the Great Wall of China?

Join a team of people passionate about mental health who are taking on this life-changing challenge in October 2019, all in support of the Mental Health Foundation.

Sign up to trek the Great Wall of China