Belfast Telegraph

Dad's plea to people with mental health issues after son (38) takes his own life

Paul Oldham took his own life
Paul Oldham took his own life
The tattoo on his hand

By Leona O'Neill

The heartbroken father of a personal trainer who took his own life has urged others struggling with mental health issues to reach out and get help.

Phillip Oldham was speaking following the death of 38-year- Paul, a father-of-one from Banbridge, two weeks ago.

Paul had set up his own gym to help others battling mental health issues and had documented his battle with depression on social media.

His father told the Belfast Telegraph that he did so much for others, but struggled to help himself.

"Paul had been dealing with issues with his mental health for quite a while," he said.

"He attempted to take his own life on two other occasions.

"He had struggled with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety over the last 10 years.

"It was a mixture of very complicated issues.

"After his first suicide attempt I spent the whole night with him and he explained to me that if I was having issues I could take them one by one and plan to resolve them.

"He told me that his issues were completely mixed up and spinning in his head and he couldn't separate them to make a decision on how to fix them."

Phillip added: "He was so focused on helping other people and watching out for other people.

"He had a tattoo on his hand - a semicolon - which represented those who struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts.

"He wasn't afraid to let people know. The tattoo wasn't for him, but anyone else who had knowledge of what the tattoo meant, so that they could talk to him about it. It was a conversation starter.

"He wanted to get people to talk, to open up and admit that they have a problem."

Phillip said he was very proud of his son, who had risen to the top of his profession and was a loving and dedicated father.

"Paul was a very well respected personal trainer," he added.

"He had his own gym, Alchemy Fitness Therapies.

"It was a gym that helped people with not only their physical health, but also mental health. He was amazing. We were all extremely proud of him.

"He was very outgoing and dedicated. You could see the passion and the love he had for his child Alfie.

"I watched Paul with his clients at the gym and he did so much for people.

"The unfortunate thing was that he couldn't focus on things to help himself."

Paul left letters behind for his loved ones, including his six-year-old son.

His father said the family are left with a series of questions and guilt.

He added: "When someone you love takes their own life it leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

"You ask yourself what did we miss that day, or what could we have done.

"Paul rang me on the day before he died to see if he could come and see me.

"He was upset and I said that we would get together on Monday and have a chat. Obviously that didn't happen.

"I called him on Monday to arrange it and he didn't answer. Then I got the phone call later on Monday evening.

"It's a phone call nobody would want.

"We raced over to the house, but by then the coroner was there."

Phillip said he is left wondering what he could have done differently.

He added: "I am left asking myself that if I had let him finish what he was saying, tell me what was upsetting him so, would that have done it for him?

"Paul would have called me three or four times a week. He would have told me what he was up to. And if things weren't going too well we would have talked about it and worked it out between ourselves.

"If I hadn't have stopped him from telling me everything that was annoying him on Sunday night, would that have been enough?

"Other family members are saying the same thing. There are a lot of 'what ifs'."

Phillip said he hopes his son is at peace now.

"Not at any time was I cross that he had taken his own life," he added. "He felt that it was his only way out. He told me that all he was doing was bringing trouble to our family.

"And he said he didn't feel good about that. He said that in the past when he tried to take his own life that he felt that we would be sorry that he had done it, but at least he wouldn't be bringing us any more issues.

"He told me that if he continued the way he was our lives would be ruined.

"We wouldn't have cared about that. He could have annoyed me for the rest of my life as long as he was still here. That was just his take on it."

Phillip said he wants others who are navigating the darkness of depression to seek help.

"It is an illness that nobody sees unless you talk," he added. "I'm hoping that someone will read about Paul and it will spark something in them to get help, to reach out a hand.

"Being silent and you're not telling people about the issues and not asking for help isn't the best way. I would urge people who are struggling to please ask for help. Just speak it out."

If you, or anyone close to you, is affected by any issues in this article, contact the Samaritans free on 116 123 or Lifeline on 080 8808 8000

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