man sat on bench in garden
Gerard KellyImage by: Hamilton City Council
man sat on bench in garden
man standing in garden
22 November 2022

Gerard's Story: Shining a spotlight on Mental Health

3 minutes read time

Gerard Kelly from Hamilton City Council lost his brother Mike who sadly took his own life. It’s coming up two years and the emotion is still raw. Gerard’s taking part in Movember to raise awareness about mental health, and to honour Mike’s life.

Men die by suicide at an alarming rate, almost seven out of 10 suicides globally are men. It is often related to situational stressors such as - financial distress; job loss; relationship breakdown and other examples such as these.

“We don’t talk about suicide,” says Gerard, “and that’s part of the problem.”

Gerard Kelly is the Community Planting Coordinator in the Parks and Recreation Unit. He’s taking part in Movember to shine a spotlight on men’s health issues such as prostate and testicular cancer, and mental health. And it’s the latter that is closest to Gerard’s heart.

" “No-one saw it coming. One minute he was here, the next he was gone.” "

Gerard’s brother Mike died just before Christmas two years ago after a short, but crippling battle with mental illness. “No-one saw it coming. One minute he was here, the next he was gone.”

Gerard says there’s a stigma around suicide that is understandable, but it is important to remember the person was unwell and not in their right state of mind. “When a loved one dies of cancer or heart disease, we blame the sickness. It usually sparks a conversation about it. We go get a check up, or watch what we eat. But when someone takes their life, we usually sweep it under the carpet. It’s too hard to talk about. But it’s a sickness, just like cancer or heart disease, and it can be treated.”

Gerard recently underwent his own health scare when a leaky heart valve required a full valve replacement. “It was my GP that spotted it during a check up, but it could have quite easily been a different story.”

Having lost his dad to a heart attack, it was quite a scary moment. Gerard says everyone has a responsibility to take practical steps to look after themselves, including their mental health.

“Stress is a big killer, so reducing stress is critical. For some, just getting back into nature is really important. And I’m a great believer in volunteer work; it’s amazing to see the effect on a person when they take the focus off themselves and give something to others – it’s a game changer.

“There’s actually a lot of good, practical tools out there now too. Like the website, and the EAP programme available through a lot of workplaces. I’m not afraid to admit I used EAP when Mike died, and it helped me a lot.”

Gerard also reckons checking in with your mates is key. “Ask how they’re feeling, and be honest if you get asked. You can’t always spot the signs that someone is battling, but if you do you might just be able to steer them in the right direction for help.”

Gerard remembers his brother for the loving and charismatic man that he was, not for the sickness that ultimately took him. We cannot thank Gerard enough for sharing his story and for using Movember as a platform to raise awareness for this very real and very heart-breaking issue that we face, globally.

Visit Gerard’s Movember page to follow his story or to make a donation.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please head to our Support Page where you can find many different helplines which are also free to use. If you're ever worried that someone's life is in immediate danger, always call 111.

Movember has also developed Movember Conversations. A tool developed by mental health experts to give you the skills to handle tough conversations with the men in your life. If a mate is struggling but you're not sure what to say, use Movember Conversations to help open up the conversation and keep it flowing meaningfully.