Frankie smiling to the camera
I didn’t know how to grieve (Picture: Frankie Feeney)

Walking into an airport for the first time back in March made me feel like a kid at Christmas.

I never thought I’d go abroad, so it was mind-blowing to get on a plane.

Later, when I was sailing down the Vltava River in Prague with my partner, gazing up at all the beautiful buildings, I couldn’t believe my luck.

For once, I felt grateful to be alive.

Which felt incredible, given that just six months ago, aged 61, I’d been in such a dark place that I’d wanted to take my own life.

I was brought up not to talk about my feelings – that boys didn’t cry. My parents showed me tough love and my father was a very disciplined man.

I was born into a deprived neighbourhood and there was a lot of lawlessness in the area. Men were hard, big drinkers and fighters. You had to fit in to survive.

So, I became like them – even though I didn’t really feel like that was who I was inside.

Then, when I was 27, I lost my baby daughter to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

I felt like I couldn’t show or talk about my feelings, so I kept them all bottled up and started drinking more to cope. I was devastated but couldn’t express how I was feeling because I didn’t really know how to. I felt, as a man, I had to be strong.

I didn’t know how to grieve.

I felt numb and disconnected, which affected my relationship with my family. I wouldn’t talk to them and instead, pushed them away.

Frankie Feeney and his partner standing in front of a road with some architecturally unique buildings in the background, in a city, both smiling at the camera.
I told my partner about what I was going through (Picture: Frankie Feeney)

I just about managed to get from one day to the next. Then, in 2009, my older brother died by suicide, and I spiralled out of control.

I felt grief, anger, guilt that my brother had died by suicide and I wasn’t able to prevent it – it triggered all my feelings from when my daughter died.

The dark feelings were so overwhelming it was difficult to cope with them, so I tried to numb myself by drinking. My life was unmanageable, I felt a constant sense of doom that something bad was going to happen.

I felt like a black cloud was hanging over me all the time.

Eventually, I went to rehab in 2011 when I was 50. I later got a job there, distracting myself by looking after other people.

Need support?

For emotional support you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email, visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.

If you're a young person, or concerned about a young person, you can also contact PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide UK. Their HOPELINK digital support platform is open 24/7, or you can call 0800 068 4141, text 07860039967 or email: between the hours of 9am and midnight.

But I was still really struggling. I was angry and grieving, suffering from devastating flashbacks about my daughter and brother dying. My mental health was at rock bottom.

More and more, I thought about taking my own life. How much easier it would be if I wasn’t here to have to deal with all of these horrific thoughts. In September 2022, these thoughts became overwhelming and I started to put a plan in place.

I thought about how I would do it, how much of a relief it would be to be gone. The only thing that stopped me from going ahead was the thought of the pain I would cause the person who found me.

Frankie Feeney: Researching suicide online as an older man
My feelings of self-worth grew (Picture: Frankie Feeney)

I told my partner about what I was going through, and she was very worried about me. She encouraged me to go to the doctor to tell him how I was feeling and they referred me to a charity called James’ Place.

I’d imagined a clinical place, with white walls and plastic chairs, but it was totally different. I was met with a smile, the building itself was calming and relaxing, and there was a beautiful garden in the back.

I instantly felt safe.

Soon, I had my first session with a therapist and broke down.

All the feelings I’d kept in for so many years, about my childhood, my daughter and brother dying, finally all came pouring out.

It was such a relief to say it all aloud to someone after so long, and for them to help me make sense of it all.

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I had weekly therapy for two months and in that time, I felt a real change in myself. My feelings of self-worth grew, I felt more in control of my thoughts, and I realised that suicide wasn’t the answer.

That I did have a future to look forward to.

With my therapist, I worked on a safety plan, which I now keep beside my bed, with what to do if I ever felt that way again – things to watch out for, things that help me calm myself (like long walks), places I can go to and who to talk to – my partner is the first person I’d tell if I was struggling again and I also have helpline numbers I can ring.

As I was coming to the end of my treatment, I started talking with my partner about going on holiday. I’d never been abroad before, or felt that interested, but I felt so much more positive and wanted to step out of my comfort zone – so, I applied for a passport, aged 61.

Frankie Feeney sitting at a cafe outside, holding chips in a paper cone, smiling at the camera.
I’d been in such a dark place (Picture: Frankie Feeney)
Frankie Feeney and his partner, sitting at a restaurant inside. Their table is by a window, they're holding hands on the table and smiling at the camera.
I’m living my best life to the best of my ability (Picture: Frankie Feeney)

A few weeks later we went to Prague. I enjoyed it so much that we went away again to Krakow and soon we’re going on my first beach holiday to Spain. I’m really making up for lost time!

I feel more positive about life in general, my feelings of self-esteem and self-worth have grown, I am processing and dealing with my grief rather than trying to suppress it.

I walk a lot now and try to help others who are feeling the same way by sharing my experiences. I’m living my best life to the best of my ability. I still have down days but I am better than I’ve ever been.

I feel like I can finally be myself.

More from Platform

Platform is the home of's first-person and opinion pieces, devoted to giving a platform to underheard and underrepresented voices in the media.

Find some of our best reads of the week below:

Will Castle shares the moment he found out his father had taken his own life from a traffic update on the radio.

Executive Chairman of Iceland Foods, Richard Walker, explains why his family's company are ditching their Christmas advert this year to help their customers.

Joy Munns' parents Mavis and Dennis were married for 60 years and very much in love, but when they both tried to kill themselves following Dennis's terminal diagnosis, Mavis was put on trial for his murder.

And finally, an anonymous bridesmaid recounts being subjected to constant demands by her bridezilla friend. She was left ghosted and with massive bills to pay.

Men have the highest suicide rate, accounting for three quarters of all suicides in the UK. I think it’s because we don’t feel able to talk because we don’t want to be seen as weak – men, especially my generation, don’t speak about feeling or emotions from where I come from.

Believe me, it’s so important to talk to someone – and not to keep it to yourself. Even when you are at rock bottom, there’s still hope for the future.

I didn’t think I would still be here now, but I got the right help and it’s been life-changing.

Suicidal men in London or the North West can access free, life-saving treatment from James’ Place

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Share your views in the comments below.

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