Belfast Telegraph

Anxiety drove me to suicide attempt, says Irish League referee Tavinder

Lee Tavinder and wife Selena with daughters Rachel and Charlotte and their dog Marley
Lee Tavinder and wife Selena with daughters Rachel and Charlotte and their dog Marley

By Graham Luney

An Irish League referee has revealed how a long battle with anxiety almost led to him taking his own life three years ago.

Lee Tavinder, who is from Stoke-on-Trent, has struggled with mental health issues from the age of 13 but didn't disclose them to anyone for 20 years.

In his darkest moment on June 1, 2015, he attempted an overdose at his home in Dungannon. The 36-year-old still takes medication but he now feels more positive about his health.

In his role as project co-ordinator for the Irish Football Association's (IFA) Stay Onside programme, he shares his story in prisons across Northern Ireland.

In an interview as part of this newspaper's Footballers' Lives series, he explains how the illness almost killed him.

"I've had mental health issues since I was 13-years-old," revealed Lee, who is married to Selena and has two daughters, Rachel (13) and Charlotte (6).

"I didn't disclose them to anybody until I was 33.

"I suffered from anxiety which led to depression and I still take medication.

"In 2015 I tried to take my own life. I was refereeing in the Premier League and working at the IFA but no one knew I had any issues, not even my wife or close family. When I tried to take my own life I was just at the stage where I didn't know how to stop the cycle.

"I was 100% sure when I got home and locked the door.

"I just didn't have the energy to carry on.

"Why didn't I tell anyone? I think a large part of it is shame because I thought I should be able to cope. On June 1, 2015, at 8.15pm I attempted an overdose. Years earlier I had another incident but it was more an attempted cry for help, this was the real thing."

In the emotive interview, Lee explains why his family was unaware of his negative thoughts.

"It was a massive shock to my family who knew nothing about it," said Lee, who takes charge of matches in local football's Danske Bank Premiership.

"I was an absolute master at hiding things. There's a typical bloke idea of not talking about these things and I feared it would affect my chances of progression at work and other opportunities.

"I was the Irish FA referee development manager at the time. Many people know now and I have a good support network around me.

"At the time colleagues at the Irish FA, particularly Michael Boyd and Diarmuid O'Carroll were fantastic. It was easier to talk to people I didn't know really well but I needed to hit rock bottom to come back.

"Rock bottom was that night in June 2015. The police were alerted by family and social services became involved.

"One of the police officers even recognised me.If they hadn't managed to get in that night I would not be here today. It wasn't until I was diagnosed with anxiety that I understood things better and can now accept it as an illness."

Lee also explains how his wife Selena has been a source of great strength and support over the years.

He added: "My wife, in particular, has needed to be very strong. If you turn the tables and things happened the other way round I'm not sure I could have supported her in the same way."

Lee is willing to talk to anyone about mental health issues and can be contacted at lee.tavinder@irishfa.com

If you, or anyone close to you, is affected by any issues in this article, please contact the Samaritans free on 116123, Lifeline on 080 8808 8000 or Mind on 0300 123 3393.

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