Suicide Prevention Week: Suicide shouldn’t be the solution for M.E. | 13 September 2018

September 13, 2018


Helen Hyland, Fundraising Manager, ME Association.

Suicide Prevention Day was on 10th September and awareness is being raised throughout this week.

It’s not something I normally mark. But on 16th September, I’ll be in Bury. Standing near the finishing line of the Asda Foundation 10k run, to welcome my son James back, hopefully safe, sound and smiling.

In memory of my husband

Pictured – Alan with James (top) and Tom (middle). Our last family outing together. 

Although I’m really proud of all that James is doing, I dearly wish that he had been able to run for something less close to home.

It will be a bitter sweet day as James will be running in memory of his late father, and my late husband, Alan Cumming, who took his own life on 30th October 2005.

He hanged himself while I was out. I found him. Thank goodness it was neither of our two sons.

I raced to phone 999 for help. They said I had to cut him down.

After several attempts I found garden loppers that would do the job. I still remember the thud when he hit the floor.

I’ve since slung the loppers. My memories of that awful day will always be with me – I don’t need objects around to prompt them.

We weren't better off without him

Alan wasn’t the first person with M.E. to take his own life. Nor will he be the last. I understand why he did it – he simply couldn’t see any other way out.

The pain, misery, inability to function, sleeplessness, frustration, anxiety and destitution all got too much…. And he simply felt that we’d be better off without him.

I’ve spoken to many people with M.E. about suicide since. I’ve spoken to their carers about it too. There are so many people who have seriously considered ending it all, because they can see no other way out of the hell that they are living.

I’m not saying they are all wrong. But so many articles have been written about the people who commit suicide, rather than the people they left behind. I felt I needed to try to redress the balance.

I do believe that Alan was wrong: we weren’t better off without him.

Alan’s death left such a hole in all our lives – not just his immediate and wider family, but friends, colleagues and community too.

His mother says that when she finally meets him in heaven, the first thing she will do is give him a clip around the ear for all the pain he caused!

So, what did he leave behind?

  • Me – his wife of 11 years. Alan was my rock; my calm voice of reason; the person whose advice I trusted implicitly; and the only man who could lighten the darkest of moods with a hug or a joke. Quite simply, he made me feel whole and I felt as if a part of me died when he went.
  • Two young sons – Tom was just 9 and James was 6. Two young boys who loved and worshipped him so much. James was the baby of the family. At 6, the only way he could cope with the dark M.E. cloud that we were living under while Alan was still alive, was to misbehave. Mealtimes were made hellish by his tantrums. Three days after Alan died, he asked me outright whether Daddy died because he had been so naughty. I responded that it had nothing to do with it. But James has never put a step wrong since – he was never ‘naughty’ again.
  • A wider family and community totally devastated by his loss. Many of them didn’t even realise he was ill…


James and ME Association mascot, Neo.

My son James reminds me strongly of Alan.

It’s not just his looks (the resemblance is so strong that some distant family members have been known to go white when meeting James after knowing his father all those years ago).

It is also his appetite (and annoying ability not to put on an ounce no matter how much he eats), his encyclopedic knowledge of their football team’s progress, his love of sweet foods especially toffee, and his sharp sense of humour.

James particularly regrets that Alan hasn’t been here to share his achievements – the goals at hockey, the school prizes, and concert performances.

Anger and frustration

There are still times when I feel angry and frustrated that not enough has yet changed for people with M.E. since Alan’s death.

But I am a little more hopeful now. There’s a huge amount of work still to be done, but there seems to be a growing will that more WILL be done.

Too many families are being torn apart by this cruel disease. And too many people are giving serious consideration to suicide as the only means of escape from the horror that they are being forced to endure.

It is time for change! We both feel strongly that if one less family suffers as ours suffered, then our efforts will have been worth it.

That’s why I continue to work for in fundraising for M.E. and why James is running for the ME Association in Bury on 16th September in memory of his father.

We both desperately want to make a difference – in the hope that one day soon, there could be a world without M.E. and therefore a world without suicide because of M.E.

Thank you for reading.

Help and support

  • If you feel you need to talk to someone who is fully trained and will listen without judgment, then do consider contacting ME Connect by phone or email. Please note that unfortunately as a small charity we cannot offer a freephone service, but do visit our website page for more information, or click the image below.

  • The Samaritan’s also offer a helpline service and it is free from any phone at any time of the day or night. You can also email or write to them, or drop in to one of their centres. Visit their website for more information.

The ME Association

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