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NEWS: Brother’s open letter to late twin calls for more to be done about men’s mental health

An open letter from the twin brother of a man who took his own life two years ago today has called for more to be done with regards to mental health in young people, in particular men.

Harry Watkins, whose brother Charlie was only 22 when he died, wrote the letter to mark the two-year anniversary of his brother’s passing.

The letter details Charlie’s “bravery” at fighting his mental health battle alone and how he “took for granted the bond [they] shared.”

Essex-born Charlie Watkins took his life after a battle with mental health that spanned many years.

Harry and Charlie tragically lost their mother to cancer at nine years of age and it is thought that Charlie never fully recovered from the loss.

The letter reads as follows:

Dear Charlie,

It feels strange to write a letter to you now, although it is somewhat therapeutic. I used to think that I knew what you were thinking, yet it is clear to me now that I never truly knew. It is obvious that I did not know of the demons you were battling in your head, or what you were forced to do next.

It has been two years since the saddest day of my life. The day I will never forget, chiselled in my mind like a mason takes to stone, and there it will remain. It serves me not as an infliction of pain, but as a reminder of the work I have to do in your name. Even though you may no longer be with us, your name lives on. The Charlie Watkins Foundation is a symbol, for all those who struggle with the same fight which you so bravely struggled with alone, to show them that there is hope and most importantly, solace.

There is not a day that goes past where I don’t think of you. Watching films we’d seen, eating at restaurants where we’d gone to, and even going to the pub where you so often “forgot” to take your wallet. What I would give now to buy you one more pint is immeasurable.

It is not often someone at the age of 24 can say that they have lost a brother, furthermore a twin. It is a connection that is like no other. I constantly feel like there is something missing from my life. I took for granted the bond we shared. I never said I loved you enough or actually admitted you were the quite good-looking brother who had a certain way with words. I lived in awe of your speedy wit and ability to understand a joke a lot quicker than me. I still replay some of your jokes in my head, having a private laugh every now and then. To be honest, I still don’t quite understand one or two of them. Then again, we always knew who the smarter brother was.

Upon undertaking work for the Charlie Watkins Foundation, it became clear that there was a problem out there, and not a small one either. I hadn’t realised that suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. How did I not know this? I assumed it was potentially my ignorance, but upon further investigation and talking to friends I realised that they too were none the wiser. Why is there such a stigma surrounding mental health? If it was cancer or dementia, I’m sure everyone would be talking about it. This brought us, the foundation, to one of our key questions and goals. How do we get people to talk about mental health without being scared to do so? This is why we designed Chat with Charlie in your name. It is an online chat-room. A place where students can turn when they are struggling. Hopefully we will be able to spread this nationwide, helping as many as possible. If only there was something like this for you when you were suffering.

Charlie, I will never forget you but will learn to cope with living without you. I will carry your memory with me always, as I do with mum’s. I so often think about what you would be doing now. What job you would have, where you would live, and what beautiful girlfriend you would no doubt have. Sadly though, these are things I will have to leave to the imagination.

Take happiness darling brother, knowing that there is always a place in my heart for you to reside, as I know the case to be true with so many others.

I wish you eternal love and peace.

Your 10-minute younger brother,

Harry

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Four top tips to combat a difficult day at university

When you’re at university, especially when it’s far away from home, it can be easy to feel isolated when you’ve had a bad day. You would have most likely come to university on your own and you might not have made too many friends yet, which means your support group can’t be there for you in person.

With all this in mind, it can quickly become very hard to overcome bad days. If you’ve ever struggled with this or want to prepare yourself for the future, take a look at our top tips for combating a difficult day at university.

1. Call your family or friends

Just because they are far away doesn’t mean you can’t speak to them! Picking up the phone and calling a close friend or family member can elevate you significantly. You can always facetime or Skype if you prefer to see them too.

You can also make plans to go back home or for your friends and family to come and see you one weekend so you have something to look forward to.

2. Take some time for yourself

Taking some time for yourself gives you some much needed TLC. Think about how you usually unwind after a tough day. This could be something as simple as watching a Netflix programme or having a bath. You should take whatever time you need to destress and calm yourself down.

3. Keep a diary

It sometimes helps people to keep a log of all of their day-to-day activities in a journal or a diary. Having this means you can refer back to days where you were feeling worse and you can put things into perspective. People also find it very cathartic writing their thoughts and emotions down as once it’s written, they’ll feel as if a weight has been lifted and they can let go of their negative feelings.

4. Open up to your housemates

Don’t be afraid to tell your housemates that you’re struggling. If you haven’t mentioned your mental health before, you can always ask if you can speak to them over a coffee and let them know that you’re not feeling great. Doing this means your housemates will be aware of your moods and can check in on you when you’re not having a good day. They can also be great at cheering you up and getting you out of the house.

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NEWS: Local jockey rides in memory of school friend

A local jockey came second place at a racecourse on Sunday in memory of a school friend who took his own life.

Max Kendrick, who was friends with the late Charlie Watkins when they were at school, rode his horse, Chat to Charlie, at his first ever race in Cambridgeshire at Huntingdon Racecourse.

Max and his mother, Carolyn, decided to name the racehorse after an online mental health initiative created by the Charlie Watkins Foundation in conjunction with Mid and North East Essex Mind in a bid to raise awareness of platform.

The platform, Chat with Charlie, is a 1:1 platform offered to students at the University of Essex and is funded by the Charlie Watkins Foundation.

The Charlie Watkins Foundation was founded a few months after Charlie Watkins, who was only 22, took his own life in March 2017.

The foundation aims to increase the awareness of mental health in young people, particularly young men, and collects donations to fund Chat with Charlie.

Harry Watkins, Charlie’s twin brother and founder of the Charlie Watkins Foundation, said: “It’s been brilliant to see Chat to Charlie come second in his first ever race and my thanks goes to both Max and Carolyn for giving Chat with Charlie this publicity.

“As time progresses, more people will ask about the horse and his name which can only increase awareness of the platform and mental health issues in young people today.

“I am thoroughly looking forward to Chat to Charlie’s future races, he shows true promise.”

It is hoped that the foundation will soon raise enough funds to roll Chat with Charlie out to the University of York, which is where Charlie was a student.

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