Widow's 'heart ripped out' after husband died by suicide a day after asking for wedding vow renewal

17.05.23 Michael and Nicola Rowe Credit: Family photo
When Nicola Rae's husband, Michael, suggested they renew their marriage vows she had no idea the next day he would take his own life. Credit: Family photo

A widow has spoken about the devastating aftermath of her husband's suicide with the hope of encouraging other men to speak out about their mental heath.

Nicola Rae said her heart had been "ripped out" by husband Michael's death, just the day after he suggested they renew their marriage vows.

Mrs Rae, from Hartlepool, said her husband was excited and there was no sign or warning of what was to come.

She said: "He had sent me to the shopping centre to get my wedding ring re-measured. That was literally the day before. I bought a new wedding gown, paid for Gretna Green. Now nothing. Photographs and a wedding ring.

"Michael was my life. It really is hard without my other half. It's literally ripping my heart out."

Mrs Rae is now campaigning for more awareness about mental ill-health as the North East has the highest suicide rate in England. Credit: Family photo

Mrs Rae is now campaigning for more awareness about mental ill-health.

The North East has the highest suicide rate in England and Teesside has the highest suicide rate in the North East.

In Hartlepool, those who end their lives account for 14.7 deaths per 100,000. The figures are the highest they have been since the year 2000 and more than twice than in 2009.

Mrs Rae added: "I am hoping to keep Michael's memory going for me by maybe saving one more person. It just needs to be out there. Men need to speak - truthfully, they really need to speak. If he had spoke, he would be here."

She added: "Just approach somebody and say 'I don't feel well. My head's all over." There is always somebody to talk to you - always.

"I honestly believe if he could come back, he'd come back."

Mrs Rae visited Lilyanne's Coffee Shop, in Hartlepool, where she met with owner Trevor Sherwood, who is also running a suicide prevention campaign.

The small business owner realised many of his customers needed much more than a cup of coffee and over the past six years has helped those in need by steering them to mental health organisations and linking them with other projects.

Mr Sherwood and his team are raising awareness with suicide prevention banners across the town of Hartlepool to show help is available. Credit: Trevor Sherwood

Mr Sherwood said demand had "massively increased" since he opened his coffee shop in 2017.

He said: "Last year, we supported over 2,000 people at a critical time in their lives."

This week is Mental Health Awareness week, which has a theme this year of anxiety.

Lilyanne's have been raising awareness about suicide prevention by running a campaign called "We care, give us a chance", which links those feeling suicidal with supportive organisations which can offer help.

Nicola Rae (centre) met up with Trevor Sherwood at Lilyanne's Coffe Shop to raise awareness of suicide prevention. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The team has been putting up water-proof banners across Hartlepool, providing assurances that no-one who goes to them for help will be turned away.

Mr Sherwood said: "We are continuing to raise awareness that help and support is available across Hartlepool with a number of reflection points now in place and we’ll keep putting even more up.

"These banners have already saved lives and they’ve only been up a week. We’ve had so many people reach out for help and support.

"We are hoping to raise as much awareness as possible so we can prevent people who are wanting to end everything a place to turn."

Mr Sherwood, founder of Lilyanne's, was recently recognised for his community work in March this year when he won the Teesside Hero Award. Credit: Lilyanne's Coffee Shop

He added: "It can feel overwhelming but talking about it and being listened to, being valued - that's what we're all about here. We wouldn't ever judge anyone regardless of their circumstances.

"If things are feeling so tough in anyone's life right now - we are here, we can talk through it and we can then offer advice and we can begin the steps of support and a way forward to help people with their mental health."

Lilyanne's previously ran the scheme last summer, using QR codes on the banners. Mr Sherwood said: "We had such a positive reactions with over 12,000 scans and lots of people accessing local support."

Mr Sherwood and his staff also assist people with cooking, arranging their doctor's appointments and steering them to mental health organisations.

If you think you might need help from the Samaritans you can call them on 116 123. The line is operated 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can find more contact details here

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