"If I could change places with them now then there would be no question about it," Michelle French said of losing her sons David and James Lane.
Trigger Warning: This story contains details of drug abuse and suicide that readers may find distressing.
A mother of seven is still coming to terms with the death of two of her sons just months apart from each other. Come April 20 will mark two years since Michelle French's son, James Lane, died by suicide. Dai took his own life in February of 2019. They were both in their 20s at the time and the family somberly marked Dai's 30th birthday and James' 25th birthday this year. This has prompted Michelle to hope for further improvements to mental health services in Wales, where the Lane family hails from as well as a shift in attitudes towards male suicide.
"Every day is the same thing. It just never ends. I go to bed and I see my boys in my sleep and I wake up to see my boys by the side of me," she told Wales Online. "I can't say that I have actually spoken to anyone about how I'm feeling because I don't want to. I need to make sure that my kids are ok first before I sort myself out. Up to now, I don't think I've done a bad job of dealing with it. I know it has got to be addressed and I've got to do it but I'm just not ready yet." Her other three sons and two daughters have also been profoundly affected by the passing of their brothers.
David, also known as Dai seemed fine and spent time with the rest of the family the night before laughing and drinking. The following day, James discovered Dai's body. The death of his brother severely impacted James who was also mentally ill. It was further aggravated by alcohol and drug use. On April 14, James attempted to take his own life and died several days later in hospital on April 20. Michelle was devastated and said, "If I could change places with them now then there would be no question about it. But the fact of the matter is that I can't."
Michelle shared a close bond with her sons and was aware that Dai was going through a rough time after a breakup. But was unaware of the extent of his distress. As for James, she explained, "If James was having a difficult time he was very, very good at hiding it. I did beg him. I said to him please go and speak to someone, even if it's just to get it off his chest." But James insisted that he was fine. He even went to an interview and got the job as well. His mom described him as a go-getter and his death was really unexpected. The family is finding comfort with the fact that as an organ donor, James' organs were transplanted to three patients potentially saving their lives.
Following the death of her sons, and two others in her family by suicide, Michelle is working hard to destigmatize mental illness particularly that of men. "Men are just as sensitive as women and they get less thought of," Michelle said. "It's silent and there are people suffering, and it's wrong." She is encouraging more people to speak about their difficulties.
If you are having thoughts about taking your own life or know of anyone who is, please contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)