Many People Are Moved By This Teen's Tweet Sharing Her Father's Mental Health Journey
Brian Wilkie's story was pulled from This Morning due to breaking news of the royal engagement. He tells BuzzFeed News about how he has "a second chance to be a father".
This is 48-year-old Brian Wilkie, a recovery support worker from Edinburgh. Here he is with his wife, Mandy, who he says is his "rock".
Wilkie told BuzzFeed News that in 2014 his 22-year-old son killed himself. "I wasn't in his life much. Then he came back into my life. It was amazing. My life was complete. To have him taken away was hard. The moment my son passed away my life spiralled out of control."
He said that he turned to drinking and gambling to cope. "I was feeling guilty. I didn’t realise depression was a mental illness. I didn’t speak about what I was going through... Depression robbed every emotion for me."
On the first anniversary of his son's death in 2015, Wilkie said that he wanted to beat depression and started taking prescribed medication. "I felt worse and gained weight. I eventually started gambling. I tried everything to take the pain away," he said.
"I went to a funeral shortly after, on January 16, and then I attempted suicide. It was the lowest place I’ve ever been in my life. There was nothing was left for me."
"I thought suicide was the easy way out," he added. "But on January 17 I thought to myself, I must change ... I drew a plan and I went with that." He stopped drinking and began visiting the gym.
It was then that he spoke to his family, who comforted him. "On that day, we all sat in the living room." He speaks of his 19-year-old daughter, Ellie. "She was really there for me. I was so blind – I see that. She always has been."
He went on to say: "She let me know that I broke her heart with my attempted suicide. Now I have a second chance to be a father."
"My family is a reason to live... my children and my wife," Wilkie said.
"I gave depression 100%, so I’ll give recovery 100%," said Wilkie. "I don’t feel sad any more. I feel happy now. I see life so differently.
"I’ve learned to be a father. I've learned how to live again."
Last Wednesday, Ellie shared a powerful and heartfelt tweet about her father's struggles with depression and attempted suicide and said that he will be taking on a new role as a recovery support worker. Her tweet reached many people and received over 168,000 likes.
Ellie, who is a student, told BuzzFeed News: "I shared the story of my dad because I couldn’t express how proud I was of him coming out the other side stronger than ever. I wanted to show everyone with support and love there is a light regardless how tough it may feel at the time."
When the tweet went viral, Wilkie felt "overwhelmed", he said. "I know so many people suffer in silence, just like I did. I hope this helps at least one person."
Ellie added: "It’s overwhelming the response my tweet got. It highlighted how much our nation needs it. Mental health in men especially is a taboo which never gets spoken about."
Her tweet was met with many warm messages of support for her father.
Some were moved by the news of Wilkie's job as they saw it as him giving back.
"I only started working in recovery by chance," he said. While in recovery himself, Wilkie said, he saw people with depression and addictions to alcohol and gambling.
He said: "I just knew when I was there it was the job for me. I can relate to a lot of people there. I just want to be of service and help anyhow I can."
On Monday, Wilkie and his daughter were due to appear on a British daytime show, This Morning, to share their story but were bumped from the lineup after the news of the royal engagement. "The royal wedding will go ahead, however mental health issues will always remain," Ellie tweeted.
Wilkie said being turned away from This Morning "hurt" although he understood why his story had to be postponed – but he said the production team could have dealt with the situation with more "diligence".
"I felt like no one was willing to hear my story. It felt horrible. I was so high then I felt so low. It hurt."
Ellie added: "Sadly we didn’t get to tell our story on This Morning due to our slot being replaced by a breaking engagement headline. We have been offered to go back – however, our commitments are now needed elsewhere. It was devastating but I don’t doubt we will be back to tell our story one day. For now, we will continue to share awareness everywhere as possible."
When asked about the royals, Ellie said: "Their charity work with mental health is amazing, which is a shame because I know they would have loved to hear our story. I think it was just bad timing."
She added: "I find mental health in this country scary. Scary in how it affects either someone we know or friends [or] relatives. It’s a topic which needs more awareness – I find it the cancer of the soul."
However, many on Twitter criticised This Morning for cancelling the slot and suggested that mental health is not taken seriously in the UK. Connor Lattka, 18, posted the tweet below, and told BuzzFeed News that the government "do not take mental health anywhere near serious enough".
Some were disappointed as stories about mental health and men aren't often heard.
This Morning issued a statement regarding Ellie's viral tweet, saying the royal engagement was "breaking news" and they have invited Ellie and Brian Wilkie back on the show when they are available.
If you are feeling at risk of suicide or if you are worried about someone else call the Samaritans: 116 123 (UK) / 116 123 (ROI)
If you need information on suicide and depression or want to talk, you can also call the Mind Infoline 0300 123 3383 (9am- 6pm), if you’re in the UK.
If you’re in the United States you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).