Ceredigion teacher suffered stroke aged 31 whilst teaching classroom full of children

Warning: This report contains upsetting themes around suicide and mental health.

A teacher who suffered a stroke aged 31 whilst in a classroom full of children, says he thought "maybe it would be better if I died” as he feared “becoming a burden” on those around him.

Aaron Kent felt an excruciating pain in his head while teaching English at Llandovery College. He told ITV Wales: "It felt like someone had pulled open my skull and poured boiling water over the crevices of my brain.

"I was teaching Macbeth if I remember rightly, which is enough to make anyone's head hurt."

He went to the school's reception to ask for paracetamol and a week later woke up in hospital after having suffered a stroke. His wife Emma had been told he had an approximately 15% chance of making it beyond a week.

Initially, Mr Kent said he didn't realise he'd had a stroke. He said his first reaction to doctors was contemplating whether he wanted to live with the possible long-term effects of a stroke.

Aaron says having a stroke caused a serious decline in his mental health.

"I remember thinking, if this happens again if the clot doesn't go away, if the brain doesn't stop bleeding, then maybe it would be better if I died because I was worried about the burden I would become," he said.

Mr Kent has had a varied career, at the age of 20 he joined the military and served on a nuclear submarine as a warfare specialist and sonar operator.

He also has two children, Otis and Rue. They were just nine months and three years old respectively at the time of his stroke.

His physical recovery is almost complete, but the long-term effect on his mental health has been serious.

Mr Kent's experience is not uncommon. More than 70,000 stroke survivors are living in Wales. A recent survey conducted by the Stroke Association found that around three-quarters of them experience at least one mental health problem following a stroke. Their survey found only 3% received support when they needed it the most.

Aaron gave a speech in the Senedd about his experience where he called for action to support other survivors and their families.

The Stroke Association currently offers ‘tier 1’ psychological support to address this gap. That is via support coordinators in the community, the helpline, peer support from other stroke survivors, and social activity groups.

But the charity says there is a gap in ‘tier 2’ support for stroke survivors struggling with mild or moderate depression and anxiety.

Looking back, Mr Kent says that the moment he was told he'd had a stroke was the first point at which his mental health began to erode.

He said: "Telling somebody they've had a stroke is not like telling somebody they've broken a finger. No, this carries with it a history of stigma, a culture of fear, and a premonition of a lonely path ahead.”

Mr Kent was in the University of Hospital, Cardiff and Neath Port Talbot rehab unit for nearly six weeks, unable to see family because of the Covid-19 lockdown.

“When I left the hospital, I became aware of how alone I was and felt," he said.

"[My wife] Emma was a rock and supported me wholly, but she had no first-hand experience of suffering a stroke.

"I couldn’t lift my children, my vision was affected and every headache, flash of eye pain, spell of light-headedness was met by a stone-cold belief that I was suffering another stroke.

“My world changed entirely, everything I had taken for granted had to be reconsidered. And when I thought I had overcome the stroke, new issues would come up: panic attacks, fatigue, lifestyle changes."

Mr Kent says he was on a waiting list for NHS provided counselling for years, but in the end had to seek private services, which he still has weekly. He is able to exercise again but the mental health struggles have not disappeared.

He got to the point in 2023 where he was having severe panic attacks two to three times a day, before he was prescribed beta blockers and told he had PTSD from the stroke.

“Three years down the line and here it was again, rearing its head and controlling my life," he said.

"I yearn for a future in which stroke survivors are walked out of hospital doors with a solution and a pathway to recovery. A future where stroke survivors don’t say goodbye to their hospital bed and their mental health at the same time.

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"And a future where a stroke isn’t the great unknown for survivors and family members alike, but a clear, concise, careful journey defined by the success of this mental health provision.”

Stroke Association and Mind Cymru have partnered to produce a report highlighting the need for stroke survivors to have specialist mental health and wellbeing support to help rebuild their lives.

The charities argue that stroke survivors across Wales are missing out on much-needed specialist mental health and wellbeing support.

"When stroke strikes, part of your brain shuts down", the report says. "And so does a part of you. That’s because stroke happens in the brain, the control centre for who we are and what we can do. 

"Lives change in an instant. As a result, people who survive a stroke often experience significant mental health struggles, including depression, anxiety, mood swings, panic attacks and suicidal thoughts."

The Welsh Government said while health boards and trusts are responsible for planning and delivering stroke services, it is working with the sector to improve access to support.

A Welsh Government Spokesperson said: "We are working with the Stroke Association, the Stroke Implementation Network and the National Stroke Programme team to support peoples' recovery following a stroke, this includes access to cognitive and psychological support services." 

Katie Chappelle, Associate Director for Wales, Stroke Association said: “We know that there is no ‘silver-bullet’ solution for helping stroke survivors rebuild their mental health, yet we want to see mental health given the same attention as physical health when recovering from stroke."

Ms Chappelle said her charity is working with Mind Cymru to develop ideas for solutions, including a wellbeing recovery group for stroke survivors. But this would need extra funding to get off the ground.

“We’re calling on those who plan and provide health and social care to work with us to ensure that people affected by stroke receive quality, timely support for their mental health and wellbeing."

Simon Jones, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind Cymru, said: “Recognising parity between physical and mental health is something that’s often talked about, but we still have a long way to go before equal focus and attention is afforded to both.

“Unfortunately, as Aaron’s experiences demonstrate, the knock-on impact to someone’s mental well-being of a major health condition such as stroke can be overlooked.

"All too often this means that people can experience patchy support for their mental health."

If you have been affected by anything in this article, help and advice can be found here.

Samaritans is available 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.

The Mental Health Helpline for Wales is available to take your call any time, day or night. Freephone 0800 132 737 or text 'help" to 81066 (charged at standard network rate)

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