Brother of "fearless" 28-year-old rugby player who took his own life in plea over men's mental health

Martyyn Holland
Martyyn Holland

THE heartbroken younger brother of a 28-year-old Wakefield dad who is believed to have taken his own life has urged men not to suffer mental health problems in silence.

Chris Holland said his brother Martyn was a "fearless" rugby league player with Thornhill Trojans, a respected prison officer and an "amazing" father to his five-year-old daughter.

Martyn Holland

Martyn Holland

An inquest opened and adjourned at Wakefield Coroner's Court on Wednesday (May 1) heard Martyn Holland, of Horbury, Wakefield, died on April 22.

Dr Jenny Thomas conducted a post mortem and gave her provisional view of the cause of his death as hanging.

Chris Holland, 26, said his brother had suffered with depression and mental health issues for around two years but believes Martyn did not tell his family the full extent of his problems.

Martyn, a former Wakefield Westgate Redoubt, Stanley Rangers and Shaw Cross Sharks player, worked as a prison officer at HMP Wealstun at Thorp Arch, Wetherby, and also played rugby for the prison service.

Chris Holland , said: "There is a big stigma attached to men and mental health. We are taught to bottle out feelings up and not discuss them because we are strong.

"That's what society has deemed appropriate, but it's not the case."

Mr Holland, who works as an account manager at Asda, said: "Martyn was battling depression and mental health issues for a couple of years.

"It is very difficult to talk to people about mental health issues unless they talk to you."

And Mr Holland spoke of the "shock and pain" on hearing of his brother's death.

He said: "It's like an immediate loss you feel instantly - that a part of you is missing.

"It came as a huge shock to us. On the face of it we all believed he was coping quite well with it.

"He was a very outgoing and sociable person. Rugby and his daughter were at the centre of his life.

"He spoke about it. He was relatively open about the fact he was seeing doctors, but he didn't go into the level of detail we needed to act.

"He had explained on occasions that he was down, he wasn't feeling as well as he should be given his life, a happy life - but I guess in his head it was the complete opposite.

"We knew he had mental health problems, we discussed it with him, but we never knew how bad it was for him. He never expressed how bad it was."

Mr Holland added: "If you are suffering talk to someone, that is a massive thing.

"I genuinely think it would have made a huge difference if he had spoken to us and clearly expressed how he felt.

"I just think it would have given us some ammunition to be able to help."

Mr Holland said his brother "absolutely loved" his job as a prison officer at HMP Wealstun and said prisoners on the wing where he worked have placed flowers and left messages of condolence at a makeshift shrine on a corridor.

Mr Holland said: "He was respected and loved in every walk of life he set foot in.

"He was an incredible dad, amazing. He spent every minute he could with his daughter. And he was like a best friend to me ."

Martyn Holland was a former player with amateur rugby league teams Westgate Redoubt, Stanley Rangers and Shaw Cross Sharks

He also represented BARLA (British Amateur Rugy League Association) on a tour of Jamaica in 2013.

Chris Holland said his brother was a rugby league scrum half and hooker, adding: "He was absolutely fearless. He ran the ball harder than any other player on the pitch and he had a passion for winning."

A minute's applause was held ahead of National Conference rugby league matches played during the weekend following his death.

Thornhill Trojans’ Premier Division game at Rochdale Mayfield due to be played that weekend was postponed.

Andrew Greenway is a project development worker at mental health charity Man Andys Man Club.

The club was launched in Halifax in July 2016 by former professional rugby league player Luke Ambler following the suicide of his 23-year-old brother-in-law Andy Roberts .

Mr Greenway said the club holds peer to peer support groups at 20 locations across the country including nine in Yorkshire and helped 10,700 men last year.

At the groups men sit and talk to each other in a confidential environment.

Mr Greenway said: "There is no referral or signing in and no cost. It's an opportunity for men to talk to other men who understand the struggles they are having.

"We know for a fact there are guys that come along and tell us that they wouldn't be here if they hadn't found Andys Man Club.

"You can talk about anything. You don't have to have had a suicidal thought or a mental health condition.

"You could just be struggling with the pressure of day to day life and need somewhere to go and get that off your chest."

For more information about groups in your area, go to andysmanclub.co.uk or e mail info@andysmanclub.co.uk or search for Andys Man Club Leeds or Wakefield on Facebook,.

Kashif Ahmed, head of commissioning (Mental Health & Learning Disabilities) at NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “It’s really sad to hear about Martyn and my thoughts are with his family.

"If you or someone you know is feeling low, distressed or alone, it’s important that you talk to someone whether it’s a friend or a family member, as it can make a huge difference.

"Men in particular can find it quite difficult to open up about how they’re feeling and if you don’t want to talk to a friend or family member, there are services that you can access locally and nationally that can help."

The following services are not specifically for men and anyone can can access them:

- MindWell (www.mindwell-leeds.org.uk/) is a website which provides information on local services, including finding practical help, for those who are struggling or feel unable to cope

- MindMate (www.mindmate.org.uk/) has information about mental health support for young people, carers and professionals

- The Leeds Survivor-Led Crisis Service provides the Connect helpline on 0808 800 1212 which provides emotional listening support and is open every night from 6pm to 2am

- You can also call the Leeds Samaritans helpline on 0113 245 6789 (local call charges apply and are open 9am to 9pm) or 116 123 (this number is free to call). The service is available 24/7 every day of the year.

If your life or someone else’s life is in immediate danger, dial 999.