Published: 10:00, 16 July 2019
| Updated: 11:08, 16 July 2019
A mother has spoken out about her son’s suicide in the hope his story will help others suffering in silence.
Ryan Cooley from Gillingham was just 24 when he took his own life. When he was 19, he told his mother Debbie about the sexual abuse he had suffered as a child.
Before his death in March, he had been struggling with mental and behavioural problems including borderline schizophrenia, and was a drug user.
His symptoms included wanting to self-harm and possessing an imaginary friend, who his family and friends knew about.
His mother says that Ryan turned to drugs as a way of coping with his demons.
She said: “He manifested this person in his head who he couldn’t escape from, it stemmed from that sexual abuse.
“He was the life and soul of the party. If you met him, you would be smitten.
“He was a beautiful soul, and to look at him, you would never think he had mental health problems.”
An inquest into his death on Tuesday, June 11, heard how Ryan had got into an argument following a night out with friends.
He returned home and spoke with Debbie and his father Wayne about trying to get him counselling for his drug habits.
The following afternoon when Debbie went to check on her son, she found him hanged in his bedroom.
Ryan had been a painter and decorator but his mum said that due to his mental health issues, he struggled to keep his work going.
He left home at the age of 20 to go and live with friends, but returned to the family home in Cleave Road, Gillingham in November 2017 following a breakdown.
“He was a beautiful soul, and to look at him, you would never think he had mental health problems...” Debbie Cooley
Debbie says on the night, he arrived in a state of distress, wearing just trousers in the pouring rain and shouting: “Mum, make it stop”
Following the incident, he was sectioned and taken to a specialist mental health unit in Canterbury where he was diagnosed with psychosis.
Debbie spoke of the difficulty of trying to get Ryan to engage with his mental health appointments, saying: “I would turn up to his appointments so I could continue to get the medication for him.
“I am very grateful that the doctors saw me but they should have said to me that Ryan should have been coming himself.
“I wish they would have sent someone out.”
Debbie makes a point of sharing mental health awareness posts to her Facebook page every Monday and has been very vocal about raising awareness about men’s mental health and the impact of sexual abuse.
She said: “People don’t want to see it every day, but for me, it’s a day to remember.”
“A lot of close friends of Ryan’s didn’t know that had happened to him.
“With men in particular, they don’t report it, they don’t speak out about it.”
For confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time.