Susan Jones has learnt to live with heartache after after her son took his own life. She tells Jamie Bowman how she’s now using her experience to raise awareness of suicide in young men and support those left to live without them...

GAVIN Price Jones was just 37 when he took his own life. A loving father and husband from Saltney, his depression spiralled after he began blaming himself for the AirAsia plane crash in December 2014 that killed all 162 people on board.

An aircraft engineer, employed by Airbus in Broughton, Gavin worked on the same model and despite no evidence to suggest he was at fault, the idea took hold and he was found dead at his house in January 2015.

"It was such a terrible shock and we were all so grief stricken," says Gavin's mother, Susan. "I had to have eight months of counselling, which was invaluable because I just didn't know how to handle it. Since then I have bought books and researched what happens and it is horrible to find out that suicide is so prevalent in men Gavin's age."

Susan is right: Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK and in 2015, the year Gavin took his own life, 75% of all UK suicides were male. Men and boys are often more vulnerable to taking their own lives because they feel a pressure to be a 'winner' and can more easily feel like the opposite, feeling ashamed of showing any signs of weakness and feeling the pressure to appear in control of themselves and their lives at all times.

"Nobody really saw it coming," continues Susan, 69. "I remember a week before he took his own life I said to my youngest son that I was worried he might do something silly but he did. For 12 months I whipped myself to pieces because all I kept thinking about was how much I'd let him down and that it was my fault.

"I was still talking to him, saying: 'Gavin, I'm so, so sorry, I should've gotten there sooner'. These are all the things that people go through but once they make their minds up about what they are going to do, it could take a week or a month, but they have got it in their heads."

Susan, who lives in Buckley, is now keen to share her experiences and ensure other mothers struggling to cope with a child with suicidal feelings, might know how to spot the warning signs and learn how to talk to their loved ones.

"Gavin was not a sharer and he was a very insular guy," she says. "He always had been right from when he was little and small worries really got to him. It was hard to get it out of him but nine times out of 10 I got it in the end. Talking is absolutely vital and it has to be talk, talk, talk and more talk. If a guy will not talk to you he has to reach out somehow, whether that's recording his feelings, writing them down or talking to a stranger."

With one in four of us affected by mental health problems in any one year, Time to Change Wales, a campaign organised by Mind Cymru, aims to tackle stigma and discrimination through a social contact model and by getting people all over Wales to talk.

"I'm passionate about this," says Susan. "I can talk about Gavin now without having a meltdown but there are days when I can't look at his photograph for too long. But 99.9% of the time I can talk about it and I'm passionate about suicide prevention.

"What I'm really striving to do is to put myself on a counselling course because I want to help other mothers handle this nightmare. I had counselling with Cruse Bereavement Care and my counsellor was absolutely fantastic. I'd be there week after week and I remember her saying 'you are a very strong lady because you talk'. She couldn't get a word in!"

Susan is also planning a coffee morning at St John's United Reform Church, in Buckley, which will raise money for Mind Cymru and help remember Gavin's life, with his former employers Airbus donating a tour of the site with lunch for two people as one of the event's 'Silent Auction' bids.

"Friends and family are all coming and I really hope we will have enough cakes," laughs Susan. "It's got to this point for me to feel OK and now I want to use all my time and energy to raise as much money and awareness as I can. If it is a success I really hope we can do it again next year."

Susan's Coffee Morning takes place at St John's United Reform Church, in Buckley on Saturday, May 11, 2019 between 10am-1pm.