A heartbroken mum whose son took his own life after a battle with depression has shared an open letter with him – in the hope of helping others in the same situation.
Alex Hocken was just 30 when he killed himself, and for his family the pain will never go away.
Two years after the tragedy, his mum Poppy has shared a letter with Bristol Live written to her eldest son.
Alex was studying for his second degree in nursing at the University of the West of England when he died.
Poppy says he wanted to change the world.
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But after a skiing accident left him house-bound for 18 months, he struggled with depression and anxiety.
On November 13, 2016, Alex sent a message to his mum and killed himself while he was at his girlfriend’s home.
Poppy has now bravely shared a heartbreaking letter she had written to her eldest son. She hopes by opening up about the family’s grief, it will stop others from taking their own lives.
“There were no signs,” Poppy said.
“I just didn’t think that Saturday, when he left home for his girlfriend’s, would be the last time I would see him.”
Alex had been a bright student growing up, always doing well in school. With several A*s for GCSE and As at A levels, he then went on to study mechanical engineering at Sheffield University.
It was then he found his love for helping others, working as a healthcare assistant throughout his undergraduate days.
Years after finishing university, he decided to return to Bristol to take up nursing, following in his mum’s footsteps.
But a skiing accident during an erasmus trip in March 2015 left him with a broken leg, and he then struggled with depression. Alex was an active young man who loved extreme sports, and he did not want to be at home. His mental health deteriorated and things got worse.
Some 20 months later, he took his own life.
Here is the letter in full:
“To my darling boy,
“Alex, you were my first born, my little miracle, just perfect and I imagined a great life for you free from harm.
“My instinct as a mummy was to protect her cubs but that fatal night, I felt I failed to protect you. My heart has been blown apart and I am trying to slowly piece it back together.
“We, your family, are struggling to comprehend that you have left us. You are now at peace and free from all your problems but we are not.
“We are left with the heartbreak, pain, devastation and confusion.
“I know it would hurt you deeply to know this. You never wanted to hurt anyone and I know you thought we would be better off without you, but you were so wrong.
“We would rather have you here with us now, no matter what, as no problem is ever worth taking your life over.
“That night you made a choice, a bad choice. My world was turned on its head in the early hours of November 14, 2016 when I received that call.
“The shock, trauma, disbelief and anguish of that morning flash through my mind when I least expect it.
“The sadness I feel fills me so completely that sometimes the tears spill from my eyes without warning and often overwhelm me.
“The sobbing leaves me exhausted. We loved you so much, you were a big part of our little family, despite all its ups and downs, we were a team.
“We have been dealt a life sentence of grief, we will never recover from losing you.
“My guilt is on a loop, wondering if I could have done more to help you. You were such a capable, academic, unique young man.
“A degree in engineering and then deciding to train as a nurse, you were so respected by your fellow students and tutors. ‘One of the best,’ they said.
“As the eldest you took so much on your shoulders, was it too much?
“You never spoke about how you were feeling and it was only latterly I had any understanding of your depression and anxiety.
“I appreciate that this started during your school years but you always appeared to be coping and because I had four of you I failed to recognise the signs.
“You achieved so much in your short life.
“That love of extreme sport was your downfall, resulting in a bad skiing accident which triggered that deep depression but we fought to get the help you needed.
“I truly thought you were getting better. How wrong I was. That Saturday morning I never, ever imagined it would be last time I would see you. There were no signs of any turmoil.
"Thirty-six hours later you took the overdose following an argument with your girlfriend.
“You sent me a text message, I had fallen asleep early and my phone was on silent.
“I missed it and I am so sorry. I will never be able to reconcile that moment when perhaps I could have saved your life. I would give anything to turn back time.
“Why did you not call me? You knew I would not judge you because I love you.
“Your brother and two sisters are lost without their big brother. They miss calling you, they hate the empty chair at family events, they loved you.
“We cry so much now. We miss you unbearably, your friends miss you and often contact us, relaying wonderful stories about you. and the friendship you shared.
“We have some wonderful memories and often laugh about your dress sense, your humour and I can still hear that hearty laugh. But they cannot replace you.
“I remember how you sucked your thumb on that first day in your hospital crib. What problems that caused later on when we had to cut a hole in your little glove in order for you to get that comfort.
“Do you remember your comforter? It was a little lavender cushion, you would not part with it.
“You were such a good little helper, when your brother came into the world. You were only 13 months and despite not walking you would crawl to fetch nappies for his changing time.
“I dream of you often and I never want to wake because I don’t want to lose your image.
“I will never get to see you fulfil the dreams you had: marriage, travel and a family of your own.
“Alex, you said: ‘Love was a doing word’
“We all loved you and we would give anything to have you back in the safety of the family.
“I will do everything in my power to stop this happening to other families and I will do what I can to raise awareness of young men’s mental health.
“Until we meet again, my beautiful boy, just know I love you.
If you need to speak to someone, Samaritans are available 24/7 by calling 116 123 or by emailing [email protected]
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