‘Things need to change’ - Grieving parents who lost son call for action

  • Report by Dot Davies

A family whose son was found dead six weeks ago have voiced their concerns about a lack of provision for mental health services in rural areas.

It is believed that Twm Bryn, from Chwilog in the Llŷn Peninsula, took his own life in October days after his 21st birthday.

His parents, Bryn and Bethan Jones, say he was let down by the system, after seeking medical help for depression.

Bethan, who is a nurse herself said: “I think there is a lack of service generally but Covid has made it even worse.

It is believed that Twm Bryn took his own life

“He had a telephone conversation instead of an assessment with a mental health nurse. And then he was referred but all he did was receive letters to say that he was still on the waiting list.

"A phone call doesn't make any sense at all, especially for mental health patients. They needed to see him, they needed to see how he responded, and see how he behaved."

Known as a joker and a lively character, Twm’s ambition was to become a full-time farmer. He would spend periods contracting and lambing on farms, and recently bought his own flock of sheep.

But last year, his family noticed a big change in his personality.

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"He invested so much energy in being himself outside the house, but at home, we saw a change. Nobody else was really aware of the real situation - only the closest family," according to Bryn.

"He’d lost weight, he couldn't eat, he didn't sleep," Bethan recalls.

"He did open up to us, but he couldn’t find the words.

"He would say 'I just don't know how I feel. That’s all I know is that I don’t feel right, and I feel empty. And that I have no meaning in life’."

Parents Bryn and Bethan Jones say that their son was was let down by the system

According to a report by Mind Cymru, 63% of adults and 68% of young people say their mental health has gotten worse since the first national lockdown. 

"In one way, some think that Twm had everything; he had his work, his car, his sheep, his home, he knew that we all loved him, he had his girlfriend and plenty of friends," Bethan said.

"But obviously, there was something still missing."

Twm’s family and friends now want to break the stigma surrounding mental health in rural communities.

Last year, his family noticed a big change in Twm's personality.

According to Bryn, who works in agriculture, "things need to change" and "people need to lift the stigma around mental health and need to talk and open up more."

Research by the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Fund, or RABI, found that 36% of people working in agricultural communities in Britain live with depression. 

"Generally, as Welsh people, as people living in agriculture, there is an old tradition that men must be tough and macho. But, everyone should be able to talk openly if they are struggling,” Bethan added.

In 2018, 83 people involved in the agriculture industry in Britain died from suicide.

Twm’s friends have been organising events to raise awareness in the community. Last week, a football tournament took place in Pwllheli raising over £5000 for the DPJ Foundation, a rural mental health charity.

Elen Gwen Williams is a volunteer with the DPJ Foundation

Speaking at the event, volunteer Elen Gwen Williams said: "We have to be able to ask people the question 'Are you OK?' We're very often farmers asking 'Sumae?' and that's it, but we're not asking properly.

“As farmers, we can repair a tractor, we can build a shed, we can fix stuff, but when it comes to ourselves, we ignore our feelings like there’s no issue."

The DPJ Foundation has provided counselling to 171 people with mental health concerns in the past year. But they fear hundreds more people are suffering in silence.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: "We extend our deepest condolences to Twm’s family. While we cannot comment on the care given to individual patients, we can confirm that referrals to mental health services are reviewed daily. 

"Since the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been necessary for a number of assessments to be carried out by telephone. However, face-to-face assessments are offered where appropriate.

"We’re working with a range of community partners to improve the early support available to people struggling with their mental health."

You can see the full Y Byd ar Bedwar programme on S4C at 8.25pm, English subtitles are available.

If you need support, you can contact the DPJ Foundation on 0800 587 4262 or by calling Tir Dewi's free helpline on 0800 121 47 22 between 7am and 10pm.