‘I’ll never forget dad’s reaction when I told him my brother had taken own life’

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The last time Adam Bardouleau saw his big brother Matt, he was his normal happy self.

They were both at their family home in West Sussex, having a laugh and exchanging small talk before heading out to go about their days as normal.

But just a few hours later, Adam, 26, got a call that would change his life forever, and he would then have the devastating job of telling his dad that Matt had taken his own life.

Recalling the terrible day in August 2019, Adam said: “I saw him on the day he passed away and he was absolutely fine. There was never any indication of what he would do that day. Everything was normal.

“He was a very happy person. The amount of messages we’ve had from his friends and people he worked with saying he was the life and soul of parties and always lightened the mood.

“People were saying he would always make work bearable.

“On the outside he was so happy.”

Matt was working in retail at the time, but had just been offered a new job which was set to be the beginning of an exciting new career.

Police called Adam’s family to say they had found Matt’s car at Beachy Head, a popular walking spot near Eastbourne.

They didn’t think much of it, assuming he had just gone for a run, but thought it odd that the police had called them.

Adam was about to head out to cricket training, but decided to call Matt’s best friend and the two of them drove up to Beachy Head to find out what was going on.

On the drive they continued calling him, until on one of the attempts somebody answered saying they had found Matt’s wallet, keys and phone.

When they arrived they started searching the area, and 45 minutes later the coast guard told them they had found Matt.

Adam drove to the hospital, but his dad called while he was on route meaning he had the heartbreaking job of giving him the news.

He said: “I had to tell dad what had happened.

“His reaction is something I will never forget. All I do was hear him down the phone.

“I remember the day after and for several weeks after, it was just numbness. There is nothing to liken it to.

“It’s an awful feeling I can’t explain. Even if someone else has been through a similar experience , you can’t relate because everyone goes through it so differently.

“Some days are harder than others. Different things trigger different memories.

“Walking past his bedroom is difficult, just having all those memories there.

“Birthdays and Christmas are difficult, they’re just not the same.

“As a family it’s been really difficult. We’re a tight family anyway but it’s brought us even closer.

“It was a very traumatic time for his friends and family.”

Adam is now determined to share Matt’s story to raise awareness of suicide and mental health.

He said: “We’re trying to make people aware it’s okay to not be okay.

“As a family, we didn’t see that Matt was struggling. It was a complete shock.

“It was difficult to take because he was this big brother figure. It can still come down to not wanting to show weakness. I think that’s probably why he kept it under wraps.”

To mark what would have been Matt’s 30th birthday, Adam took on a gruelling running challenge as part of the Move For Mind fundraiser.

Matt loved exercise and the outdoors, and was a regular at the gym, which is why Adam decided on a fitness challenge.

He originally set himself the goal of running 100 miles in 30 days for the Move For Mind event, but half way through the challenge decided to set the bar even higher.

He said: “Matt loved being outdoors and being active, so this was quite fitting.

“When I first started the challenge I thought 100 would be real challenge. When I was going into to the running I thought I can do this and I’m actually quite enjoying it.

“I started with a 10K and loved it, so I just kept going.”

He ran different distances every day, including two half marathons, battling the awful January weather.

Friends and family members joined him on most of his runs, but lockdown restrictions meant he had to turn down offers of support he could only exercise with one person at a time.

“It has its struggles and the weather didn’t help.

“There were times I was really struggling physically and my legs had seen better days.

“Where I’ve had so much support and so many donations, that’s really spurred me on.

“Knowing that it’s going to be helping someone out there and raising awareness of mental health really kept me going.”

He originally set himself a fundraising target of £200, thinking that people may not be able to donate due to it being in January and the pandemic.

But before he even put his trainers on on January 1, he had already raised £1,000, and his total is now over £6,000.

“It’s incredible really. It showed how many people cared about the cause.

“It’s great seeing the money come in but the whole point of this was to raise awareness.

If what I’ve done helps one person, that’s brilliant. I’d take that over the money.”

And he’s already seen the impact of his efforts, and has been contacted by several people who have shared their experiences.

He’s also been able to pass on information to some people who have said they are struggling at the moment.