The late David Philpot.
A Stranocum woman whose fiancé died by suicide in February 2017 has poured all her efforts into setting up a foundation which will serve as a lasting memory to the man she thought she'd spend the rest of her life with.
Debbie McCrellis and David Philpot had been together from December 2010, and after David proposed in London on 23rd September 2016, almost everything was organised for their wedding day on Friday 11th August, 2017.
But just 26 weeks before their big day, Debbie received the devastating news that 43-year-old David had taken his own life. The sheer trauma of that day will be with Debbie for life.
David, who worked full-time as a project manager for RQIA (Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority), was also a part-time neighbourhood police officer based at Portrush Station, where he ended his life.
Debbie recalls that in the days leading up to his death, David was ‘his usual self’, a little stressed, but with no signs that he was planning his death by suicide. David always had ‘a cup half full’ attitude to life.
Speaking to The Chronicle, Debbie said: “David was such a diligent man, he never did anything without thinking it through first, he always had a logical and methodical approach, he was such a genuinely good person who was so productive and had lived life to the full. I also know that he would never intentionally cause pain or hurt to anyone as he was such a selfless man, but he was obviously suffering inside and couldn't see a future, nor did he feel he could reach out for help. I know he would have seen that as a weakness. Someone who takes their own life usually just wants to end their own pain.”
“He kissed me goodbye on the morning of Friday, February 10 2017 and told me he loved me, before driving our son to the bus-stop. I never saw him again. David took his own life totally out of the blue. Looking back there was nothing different about him. He kept it all to himself and no one had realised his true struggles.”
David was a man who held many qualifications and accolades, he had a degree in Engineering, a Masters in Healthcare Management and had recently been told he was a recipient of the Torch Trophy Award, after being nominated by the Marine Society and Sea Cadets after running the T.S Duke of York Portrush Sea Cadets since 2010, an award that Debbie, Jay and David’s sister Clare travelled to London to accept posthumously from The Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, just four weeks after his death.
Debbie said: “David was very private and humble, but proud to have met HRH The Queen and Prince Philip on numerous occasions but would decline any media coverage or rarely talked about it, he would have seen that as boasting.”
She continued: “David made such an impact on people. He was a remarkable, amazing man who my son Jay and I were very privileged to have in our lives. He was my soul-mate and a fantastic father to Jay. He was happy in his public role as a neighbourhood police officer, he was proud of his job as a Project Manager for the RQIA, but his voluntary role as Commanding Officer at Portrush Sea Cadets was the most important role in his life. David was totally dedicated to the Sea Cadet Corps and made a huge difference to many young lives through that role.”
David had been with involved with Sea Cadets since 1986 and took up the role of Officer-In-Charge of the Portrush Sea Cadets in 2010.
Debbie added: “David’s role in Sea Cadets meant so much to him, he thrived when helping people overcome difficulties, he was instrumental in introducing the CVQO BTEC to the Northern Ireland Sea Cadets which enabled many kids who were not academic to go on and further their education.”
For Debbie, Jay and those that loved David dearly they want to celebrate David, remember the man he was in life, and not the way he died.
And to that end, Debbie has set up the 'Flowerpot Foundation' which will offer bespoke and flexible support and advice for people affected by suicide. The foundation will work alongside the other fantastic services and agencies in this area and serve as a lasting legacy to a man who genuinely loved to help others.
Debbie said: “Suicide is a life shattering event and has a massive impact on the lives of the people left behind. It doesn't even have to be a parent, sibling, spouse or child of the person who carries it out, suicide can affect colleagues, other family members or neighbours and this is why this foundation is so important to me.”
“In the days and weeks following David's death I was lost. I still am. My own mental health has suffered greatly, but for about 10 months there were dark days which I don't recall much of, my family had to fight to get me help.
“I was tortured, my mind was tormented, I was racking my brains to think if David had said something, if there was any inkling he was feeling suicidal or depressed and much self-blame for not realising his struggles featured high in my emotions.– I was in a very dark place. I know only too well that losing a loved one to suicide can increase the risk of further suicides in the people left behind. It’s crucial to get the most appropriate help, and whenever it is needed the most.”
It was following her own experience that Debbie decided to set up the Flowerpot Foundation.
She said: “The Foundation aims to promote life, hence the name 'Flowerpot' – when a plant is broken or dying and you provide nourishment, good soil, light and water and if you nurture it, it will bloom again. It takes time, but eventually the growth will come, the flowerpot is the most important part – it's what keeps it all together, it encases all it, holds and protects the vulnerable plants during their new growth.
“David also had various nicknames such as ‘Flip-Flop’ and ‘Flowerpot’ so the name derives from his nickname and his huge love of his gardening. It is a very fitting name for the foundation and holds a special place in Debbie's heart. The cactus in the logo represents David’s love of growing cacti and the sun shows that you can have light again in your life after such grief.”
The aim of the Flowerpot Foundation is to be a hub for all the agencies and organisations who are like-minded. The foundation will deliver a very in-depth and easily navigated website containing resources, contacts and links to the other organisations who specifically work with people bereaved by suicide.
For full article see this week's Chronicle.