Fire officer fundraising for mental health charity after brother's suicide

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Officer Sally Hammond is raising money for Suffolk Mind

Suffolk fire officer Sally Hammond, who will take part in the Great East Swim on June 19 - Credit: Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service

A Suffolk fire officer believes there is still "a long way to go" in challenging the stigma of mental health issues after her brother took his own life nearly five years ago. 

Sally Hammond, 51, opened up about her brother's death as she prepares to swim a mile with colleagues to raise money for mental health charity Suffolk Mind. 

Sally, who works as prevention and protection manager at Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, will take on the Great East Swim at Alton Water, near Ipswich, on Saturday, June 19

Her brother, Carl Tyrrell, who worked as a dog handler for South Yorkshire police, was found dead at his home on September 20, 2016. 

Suffolk fire officer Sally Hammond and brother Carl Tyrrell, who took his own life in 2016

Sally Hammond with brother Carl Tyrrell - Credit: Sally Hammond

Sally, who lives in Ipswich, said her brother had battled depression during his life. 

"His mental health had been declining for a few years and he'd always struggled with aspects of his mental health from time to time over the years," she said. 

"When I received the phone call to say he had taken his own life, of course that was devastating.

"It was really difficult at the time, and I don't think you ever really recover from it, you just learn how to live with the loss."

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Sally said she believes there is still a stigma attached to mental health issues, particularly within the 'blue light services'. 

"Carl did seek help for his mental health issues but didn't talk about it as freely in his workplace as maybe he should have done or maybe he felt he was able to," she said.  

"I think particularly with the blue light services, people do tend to keep their emotions to themselves a lot, and I think there is a stigma attached to mental health issues. 

"I think that did hold him back from talking about it in his workplace and certainly among his colleagues."

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Great East Swim team

Sally and colleagues will take on the Great East Swim for Suffolk Mind on June 19 - Credit: Lizzy Tuthill

She added: "I still think we've got a long way to go. It's definitely improved and I think some of the high-profile people who have been talking about it, like the royals for instance, have made a big difference. 

"But it still takes a long time to filter through all sectors of society and there is a massive lack of understanding about mental health issues and how debilitating they can be.

"I think unless you've suffered yourself in some way, it's really hard to understand how debilitating a mental health issue can be to an individual."

Sally Hammond with Suffolk Mind chief executive Jon Neal

Sally with Suffolk Mind chief executive Jon Neal - Credit: Lizzy Tuthill

Sally urged anyone struggling with their mental health to talk to someone or seek the appropriate help. 

"Go and seek help. Talk to somebody. Talk to a line manager or a trusted friend and open up that conversation further and seek professional help," she added. 

"People shouldn't be held back for what they may perceive as a weakness for example. It definitely isn't a weakness.

"For me, talking about your mental health is a real strength, it means you've recognised it in yourself and are prepared to do something about it."

Sally and her colleagues are hoping to raise around £1,000 for Suffolk Mind and anyone wishing to donate can visit the team's Just Giving page here