Belfast Telegraph

Dad saddles up to light candle in every Northern Ireland town in memory of his son and others lost to suicide

Terry Geddis
Terry Geddis
Terry Geddis' son Zachary
Claire Williamson

By Claire Williamson

Every push of the pedal will be in memory of his son and all of those who have died by suicide in Northern Ireland.

Terry Geddis lost his son Zachary on March 18, 2017, at his university halls in London.

Since then there has been a candle burning in their Coleraine home in memory of the 20-year-old, who was studying fashion illustration at the University of the Arts.

He had been open about his struggle with mental illness and had been seeking advice and support since the age of 16.

After Zachary's tragic passing his family became determined that his legacy will live on through the voices of his loved ones and friends.

Starting today, his dad Terry (49) will cycle through every major town here in 11 days.

In each he will leave a candle to mark where he has visited and people in that area who have been impacted by suicide.

The candle will burn for the remainder of his journey. In just two weeks the whole of the province will be lit up to remember those who lost their lives to suicide.

Zachary's family set up the Zachary Geddis Break The Silence Trust to combat the stigma around mental health.

They said he was the life and soul of the party and was loved by many as a popular model and athlete.

The family promote the 'Not All Wounds Are Visible' tag line, which has been used since his passing as a way to describe the hidden aspect of mental illness.

His family described Zachary as "popular, beautiful, intelligent and funny", but their message is that even the most confident people can become victims.

Zachary's sister Yasmin said: "On Monday my dad will set off from Morelli's Portstewart at 9am and is cycling for 11 days, covering 1,200 miles, visiting 120 towns.

"Members of the community have nominated themselves to collect a candle from each of the towns, they are putting it in a place of remembrance for those that have taken their own lives.

"The candle itself burns for 14 days, so none of the candles will run out until he has finished his cycle.

"The whole of Northern Ireland will be lit up in memory of those who have lost their lives.

"We have kept a candle lit in our house since March 18, 2017.

"So that is where the whole idea of keeping the light on Northern Ireland came from."

The family use the trust they have created to keep Zachary's memory alive and a sense of his being close to them.

Yasmin said: "We keep the light burning as a constant reminder of his life within our house and our hearts.

"I miss him every second of every day. He was my best friend.

"We are an extremely close-knit family and we miss him terribly.

"We tell his story and the story of our family in hopes to deter other people from taking their own lives.

"In every single town that daddy is going through there is someone who has been affected by suicide within that area and, as we have been promoting this, there are some that you don't even hear about.

"There are families contacting us wanting to get a candle, it is really highlighting that there is an epidemic at the moment and we are doing as much as we can to combat that."

Yasmin said they want to promote the fact that not all wounds are visible.

She added: "Zachary was a model over in London. He took his own life at his London university accommodation, and he was absolutely beautiful, right through to the end.

"[We want] to showcase the fact that just because you are beautiful on the outside, doesn't reflect how you are feeling on the inside.

"And really be gentle and be kind to everybody every day because you don't know what they are going through."

Terry has always been open about his own battle with mental health. He said: "After suffering a breakdown and being institutionalised in the Ross Thompson mental health unit over Christmas and New Year 2019 for three weeks, I have come to understand the deepness of depression and, as a man of 49, I can only imagine how hard depression can hit someone of only 20 like it did to my own son.

"During my cycle, each pedal will be for those who are suffering, who have lost their lives and also the families left behind. Each candle will represent those who have taken their lives in that town and we hope to light up Northern Ireland in their memory."

To cycle a portion of the distance with Terry, be a candle collector or donate, you can get in touch via suicide-11-days-1200-miles For more information visit: Facebook: Blog: Website: www.zacharygeddisbreak

Belfast Telegraph


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