Parents who lost their 'kind-hearted' Merthyr son to suicide share experience to raise awareness

On the 17th October last year, Ceri Collins from Merthyr Tydfil turned 39. He posted photographs on Facebook of the new jacket that his girlfriend had bought him for his birthday. He spoke of how lucky he was to have such good people around him.

But the following day, Ceri took his own life. It is no exaggeration to say that it was a day which shook the town he had grown up in.

Ceri had been a pupil at Cyfarthfa High School, and was the "most popular" student among his peers. His friends and teachers remember him as an aspiring rock star - the heart-throb that teenagers throughout the school had a crush on. He was also a keen footballer, and split his time between the music he loved and the sport he loved.

So when news of his death filtered through Merthyr Tydfil, it hit local people hard. But of course nobody felt it more than his parents, Madeleine and Mark. They had been watching a football match on TV when two police officers knocked their door. And their lives changed forever.

Ceri sang all over Wales and the world with records local people would instantly recognise.

Ceri's father, Mark, explained: "Ceri is the last thing on our minds before sleep, and the first thing in the morning when waking up. In between the sleep which seems to elude us these days.

"It was just horrendous. That evening was something I'll never forget. It was the biggest shock imaginable, and we don't want anyone else to go through this."

Ceri had spent much of his life in rock bands. He had sung all over Wales and the world, and made records local people would instantly recognise.

"I do still play a lot of his music," says Mark. "But it's bittersweet. Some of it makes me emotional, and some of it makes me cry."

Ceri's mum, Madeleine, described her son as "quick-witted" and "kind-hearted".

Mark remembers spending weekends taking Ceri to play for Birmingham City as a youngster, and toured France with him watching Wales play in the knockout stages of the Euro 2016 tournament. But Madeleine remembers Ceri's "unique" personality.

"He had a huge funeral, which indicated how well-known and how well-loved he was," she says. "Ceri was great company because he was really funny. He was very passionate about music and football, he was very quick-witted, he was very good-looking, but he was also very kind-hearted and sociable. He was capable of making friends all around the globe, and he would talk to anybody."

Ceri had indeed spoken to members of Andy's Man Club on Monday evenings, as part of a mental health journey he had been on for a number of years. The charity has just 4 groups in Wales, but is looking to double that within the next six months.

Dan Rowe, from the charity, says "every single one of our groups is growing. And that's a good thing because the awareness is getting out there that a lot of men feel isolated with their issues. They feel that there is nowhere to turn, or if they do turn somewhere they will be judged. They feel embarrassed that maybe they're not living up to what society feels a man should do."

Ceri's dad, Mark, remembers spending weekends taking his son to play for Birmingham City as a youngster.

It is this so-called stigma that has inspired local Merthyr Tydfil woman Anne Murphy to walk 28 miles in 28 days during the month of February, fundraising for Andy's Man Club, and trying to raise more awareness of male suicide. Anne grew up with Ceri's mother Madeleine and wants to help support her through the grief of losing her son.

"Suicide kills more men under the age of 45 in the UK than anything else," says Anne. "This cannot continue. I was absolutely floored - like the rest of Merthyr - when Ceri decided to leave us. I could not say anything that would comfort Madeleine and Mark. But I was determined to do something in Ceri's memory, and if this helps even just a handful of young men to realise that there is light at the end of the tunnel, then it will have been worth it."

Back in the living room of their home, Madeleine and Mark wipe tears away from their eyes when telling me about their "special" son. I remember Ceri at school, and I too knew how special he was to many people. From school, to Merthyr Town Football Club, to live music venues around the South Wales Valleys, everybody was touched by Ceri Collins' talent. And everybody has been touched by his tragic death.

This is the first time that Ceri's parents have publicly spoken of their loss, but they are determined that if it can save even just one life and stop another family from suffering a bereavement due to suicide, they say they will keep on speaking out - just the way Ceri would have wanted.

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at, or visit to find your nearest branch.