“People tell me that I shouldn’t blame myself but I do,” says Steve Phillip whose son Jordan took his own life 18 months ago, aged 34.
“He was a very private person who kept himself to himself, but if I had the knowledge I have now back then I would have done things differently. I knew nothing about mental health and really didn’t understand it.
“I was the dad who took him to the pub for a pint and we had a laugh – I didn’t ask too many questions. Now I have better understanding of mental health I would have done things differently. I would have picked up on the signs and gone round to talk to him. I do believe Jordan’s death was preventable and that’s why I do what I do.”
Since his son’s death Steve, from Pannal near Harrogate, has dedicated his life to raising awareness of suicide – especially in young men – so that other parents don’t have to go through what he has and to facilitate change. Within days of his son’s death, Steve decided to write about what happened and in February 2020 launched The Jordan Legacy .
“It’s not something I wanted to do, it’s something I had to do,” he says. And during Mental Health Awareness Week he has joined forces with North Yorkshire Police to highlight the growing problem. He has been stunned by the response.
“I have been telling Jordan’s story for more than a year, but since North Yorkshire Police put it on their Facebook page this week it has exploded.”
More than million people viewed the post in the first 24 hours and Steve’s telephone has been red hot.
“I have people contact me who have read my story and say that they have thought twice about taking their own life. That is why I do this and to support those affected by suicide.
“Suicide touches so many people – the ripple affects are massive,” says Steve, who also has daughter Danielle, 38.
In the last 12 months North Yorkshire Police has recorded 32,117 incidents where mental health has been a factor – that’s up 543 incidents a month and 6,512 incidents in a year.
And although initial figures show that suicide actually fell during lockdown, Steve believes it is a time bomb waiting to go off once we return back to normal.
“One of the main causes of mental health problems is loneliness and isolation, During the pandemic everyone was suddenly in the same position, but once things start to get back to normal I am worried about those who will once again feel alone and isolated. There needs to be so much more support for them and as soon as they need it, not to be told they need to wait six weeks for help.”
Jordan took his life on December 4, 2019 at his home in Horsforth. He had suffered from depression and anxiety for many years, but nothing had prepared his family for his death.
“Jordan had depression, he’d battled with it for several years that we knew of. In truth, he’d probably experienced this illness for many years – no one though was prepared for what happened that day. He had protected us from his torment and we will never know what made him choose that day to take his life.”
Steve was told of his son’s death by Jordan’s girlfriend Charlotte.
“In the hours leading up to him taking his own life, I was delivering a social media training workshop in Solihull which was three-hour drive home in heavy traffic. The day before the workshop, Jordan and I suggested that we’d speak later that day, but after arriving at my Solihull hotel room later that evening, we decided we’d catch up another time as it was late and Jordan was tired.
“I could have done better, I could have been less busy, I could have insisted we speak or just simply called him. I didn’t. These are my torments but inside, part of me knows he knew we cared, we did do as much as Jordan would let us do.”
Jordan had always been a very sensitive and emotional person, loved by everyone and very much in tune with other people’s emotions. He’d worked for the immigration service helping asylum seekers, a career his father says was typical of his caring son. But underneath this caring, loving son, brother and boyfriend, Jordan was struggling.
Steve said the Jordan Legacy started out as a place to sign post people towards help.
As demand grew Steve realised that the role of The Jordan Legacy needed to evolve.
“Our mission is to improve people’s mental wellbeing and the support available; to reduce people’s sense of social isolation; to encourage the development of a kinder society; and help people feel a sense of achievement and contentment because of who they are not what they have or don’t have,” says Steve.
“In Jordan’s memory we will help those I know he would have helped if he was still here.”
Working on a model that has seen a massive reduction in suicide in Detroit, the aim is to head toward a Zero Tolerance Community.
“One of the problems is that the Government’s target is to reduce death by suicide by 10 per cent in five years. But what about the other 90 per cent ?
“Most suicides are preventable and we have to work towards zero tolerance in order to make a real difference.”
He also believes that we need to start educating young people about mental health early.
“I spoke to a young woman the other day who said life for young people today is all about competition. We need to help our young people to be resilient.”
Steve is organising a mental health conference in Harrogate on December 1 – two years after his son’s death. The Hope for Life conference at the Pavillions of Harrogate.