Every Friday night Richard Bland and his wife Sue relive the moment they were told their son had killed himself.
Father-of-one Andrew Bland, aged 31, took his own life seven years ago at a time when he was about to move back home to live with his parents.
But instead of welcoming home their son, Richard and Sue received a knock on their door from two police officers who informed them that Andrew was dead.
Richard says the news destroyed his family – and to this day they leave a light on at night for their son.
Richard, aged 62, of Meir Park, said: “Andrew was going to come home on the Saturday.
“But on the Friday night we got the knock on the door. Andrew had problems in the past of being a bit naughty and when I saw the police, I just said, ‘what’s he done’. But the officer said, ‘it’s more serious than that, can we come in’.
“They told us what had happened. It was shock, horror, and disbelief – complete and utter disbelief.
“The first thing you do is telephone everyone. Our youngest son couldn’t cope with it. In the end the police took me to him to calm him down, he couldn’t deal with it. He still can’t. He certainly can’t understand why Andrew did it.
“Sue wanted to go and see Andrew immediately but the police were very evasive about that. A friend of mine who is in the Met Police was here in two hours and he took over. He calmed Sue down and said, ‘you don’t want to see him now’.
‘You think you are dreaming it…’
“That night we didn’t sleep. We didn’t go to bed for two months, We slept downstairs on the settee. You think you are dreaming it.
“If he had died in a car crash or had a heart attack, or even been shot and murdered you could understand it. But you can’t understand or accept him killing himself.
“You get very angry. If I had known how he felt I would have dragged him home and locked him up in the house.
“But there’s no anger towards Andrew. He’s at rest now, he’s at peace.
“Now every Friday is the same. It all comes back.
‘Every Friday we relive it…’
“Every Friday we relive it. There are a few little noises around the house and you think, ‘Andrew’.
“Do I dread Fridays? If you were to ask me at 5pm, I would say, ‘yes’. It depends on how busy I am. If you were to ask Sue, she would probably say, ‘every minute’.
“When we heard what had happened there was a light on in the hall and that has been on every night since. We won’t turn it off in case Andrew wants to come home.”
Richard partly blames Andrew’s death on the financial crash of 2008. Up until then Richard ran a thriving family business installing security safes in banks across the country. Andrew and his brothers all worked for the firm, which collapsed overnight.
“When we had the business we were very careful to make sure the kids benefitted, but they worked so hard – it was seven days-a-week, 24 hours-a-day,” said Richard
“We lost everything in the crash, that was devastating.
“I can’t say [Andrew’s death] was totally caused by the collapse of the business, but that was a long way towards it.
‘You never get over the loss of a son…’
“You never get over the loss of a son.
“It destroyed our family. My eldest son was as fit as a fiddle. He was always outgoing and he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for charity and ran up Mount Snowdon. Not anymore. He’s really suffered.
“My youngest son can’t accept it and he won’t talk about it. He gets very, very angry.”
The loss of Andrew was compounded four years later, when Richard lost a close friend to suicide, Peter Collins, a Red Arrows pilot and veteran of the Falklands War, who took his own life in 2016 at the age of 62.
Richard said: “Pete had knocked on our door. He said, ‘tell me about Andrew’s death, because I feel like doing it’. I took him in. He stayed with us for three or four weeks. We looked after him and tried to help him.
“But he killed himself in a hotel room in Chester. That was a massive, massive blow. I couldn’t put it into words.”
An inquest held in 2017 heard that Mr Collins died after a ‘depressive episode’. The test pilot had become increasingly ‘anxious’ after semi-retiring and regretted his decision to ground himself.
A photograph of Mr Collins now hangs in Richard and Sue’s home, next to a portrait of their son.
Now Richard, an aviation photographer who was already devoted to raising cash for charity through calendars he produced and other initiatives, spends his time fighting to prevent other families suffering the same trauma that he and his loved ones live with.
He is trying to raise awareness of mental health as well as the work done by charity the Dove Service, based at the Dudson Centre in Hanley, which provides bereavement counselling and helped Richard and his family.
Richard has created a book which encourages children struggling with their emotions to share their problems. and is being sold to raise money for the Dove Service as well as the RAF Association.
“I miss Andrew. I think about what he would be doing now,” said Richard.
“Every day I spend doing what I’m doing to try to raise awareness. If I had not done this I couldn’t have carried on. I would have died of a broken heart.”
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