Wife says suicide of Teesside businessman was 'like a bomb going off'

This article contains references to suicide

The wife of a Teesside businessman who took his own life in 2018 says he would be proud of the mental health charity set up in his memory, but devastated about the impact his death has had on his loved ones.

Russ Devereux from Hutton Rudby died on 6 May 2018.

The 41-year-old managed one of the North East’s leading haulage firms, Billingham-based Devereux Transport and Distribution Network.

Ten days before his suicide, an employee at the company had died following a work related incident.

Russ and Catherine were married for 14 years. Credit: Family photo

Catherine Devereux said her husband's unexpected death had a catastrophic impact on their life.

“Russ had never really had problems with his mental health," she said.

"He worked very hard, he probably didn’t relax as much as he should have but he was so passionate and cared so much about the business.

"The death had a huge impact on him, almost to the extent it caused an acute breakdown.”

The day he died, Russ had been following Catherine to a family BBQ but never showed up.

"He walked out that day and we never saw him again. I can’t put into words the devastation, it was just like a bomb had gone off - the impact it had was just devastating," she said.

Russ and his three young daughters. Credit: Family photo

Catherine has shared her story during Mental Health Awareness Week, acknowledging there is still a stigma around suicide, which is the leading cause of death in men aged under 45.

The North East has the highest suicide rate of any region in England.

Following Russ’ death, Catherine founded the Russ Devereux Headlight Project.

The charity is based in Stockton and works with schools to teach children about mental health.

A team of eight therapists also provide support and counselling for adults impacted by suicide.

Catherine said: “Our region has the highest suicide rates in the country and our aim is to reduce those numbers. We do that by supporting families affected as they are at higher risk.

"Secondly we talk to children about mental health from a young age.

"We also offer training and encourage our communities to have conversations about suicide."

Since the charity was established, Catherine has met many people affected by suicide and believes there is still shame attached to it.

“I didn’t want that for Russ, the way he died was not reflective of how he lived his life.

"I know we won’t stop suicide but we want to help people affected by it.

"I hope the Headlight Project will provide a guiding light when the road ahead is dark.”

The Headlight Project was founded in 2019, the year after Russ' death. Credit: Family photo

Since its launch in 2019, The Headlight Project has worked with ten schools across Teesside offering counselling and play therapy, with its services having supported more than 500 people.

Catherine believes Russ would be immensely proud of what has been achieved.

“He gave a lot back himself for good causes. He would be devastated the impact his death has had on us as a family and our wider friendship group but I think he would say yeah crack on with it.”

Russ' three young daughters helped create the truck logo for the charity, which Catherine says is a fitting tribute to his work in the family business.

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