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Losing my dad and best friend to suicide broke me

Jack Sargeant and his friend Jamie Wynne
Jack Sargeant (right) lost his dad and his best friend Jamie Wynne (left) to suicide

This article deals with bereavement and suicide

A politician has spoken of the "worst pain in the world" after losing his best friend to suicide.

Jack Sargeant MS and Jamie Wynne had grown up together, played football together and been a part of each others' lives for 20 years.

"He was a person who would do anything for anyone," he said.

"He would have been the first one you could go to. I did that myself on many occasions."

Jack’s father Carl Sargeant, a Welsh government minister, also died by suicide after being sacked in 2017.

"I'm 29 years old and I've lost my dad and my best friend to suicide.

"I was broken by both of them."

Jamie, who died at the age of 28, was a football fanatic and a lifelong Liverpool FC supporter.

Speaking in an interview for the first time about the death of his friend, Jack remembers the last time he saw him.

"He came to mine after the game, there was a few of us there and he sang, I have this plug in karaoke machine.

"He's an awful singer.

"But he would make you laugh, make himself laugh. He was always the life of the party."

Jack Sargeant holding a trophy after winning the NWCFA Under-13s cup with Connah’s Quay Tigers
Jack Sargeant was a keen footballer when he was a child

For more than 20 years Jack said Jamie had been the best friend he could ask for, but had clearly struggled with his mental health.

"He was obviously in a lot of pain. We don't know what that was exactly or why.

"It’s a big gap to fill... I’ll never hear his infectious laugh again but it will stick with me and many others forever.’’

Connah’s Quay Town FC, the local team Jamie played for, dedicated a match to him and more than 1,000 people attended.

"People I haven't seen in 10 years from school and around the area all came, really hurting because of the loss, but also wanting to show support to Jamie’s family and himself," Jack said.

Jack wishes he could have shown him how supported he was.

"You'd like to remind him ‘look, we love you mate and it'll be all right’."

Over the past decade the suicide rate among men has been higher in Wales than in England, according to the latest ONS data.

In 2022, north-east England had the highest rate of male suicide, 12.8 per 100,000 individuals, followed by Wales and north-west England at 12.5.

It also shows that men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women in Wales.

For Jack, his experiences of loss feed into that picture.

"It's two men, it’s young men as well. Jamie was 28 and dad was 47 so that’s two men under 50," Jack said.

He also reflects on his own mental health.

"I suffer with depression and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

"I take anti-depressants daily and there’s nothing wrong with that."

Jamie Wynn holding a football trophy as a boy
Jamie Wynn and Jack Sargeant played for the same football team when they were children

He hopes that by sharing his experiences, the pain he has faced from losing his dad and friend can be prevented.

"If we can try and help by raising awareness and speaking out, try to save one person, that's a good result for me."

But he also understands the difficulty in opening up.

"I stand here today to talk to you about what we need to do to encourage people to talk. But I do practice that all time? No.

"I find it very hard to open up and speak about my mental health."

Jack believes support for men can come from within communities.

Connah’s Quay Town FC has implemented an ethos that everyone must keep talking and has trained mental health ambassadors.

"We need to look at settings like this where men come to a safe space and can open up and talk," Jack said.

"It is certainly something we should look for more clubs to do, and more organisations."

Jack Sargeant
Jack Sargeant followed in his father's footsteps to become a politician

Jack, who is MS for Alyn and Deeside, succeeding his father following his death, wants to use his platform to raise awareness around men's mental health and suicide.

"We've got to be in a position, and it’s not an overnight solution, but if people need to access professional support they should be able to very quickly."

Reflecting on the loss of his dad, there is one message Jack holds on to.

"He used to have suit jackets everywhere, as you can imagine. In them would be a broken pair of glasses, a pen that probably didn't have a lid and usually nothing else.

"But, when we were clearing his suits out, one jacket I’d picked up had this piece of paper inside."

The piece of paper Jack found was the back of a menu from a Chairman's Charity Ball when Carl Sargeant had to say a few words.

"He scribbled a few words on the back, 'edrych ar ol ein gilydd', look after each other.

‘’If we can do that for each other then we give ourselves a fighting chance.’

  • If you're affected by any of the issues in this article you can find details of organisations who can help via the BBC Action Line.

More on this story on Wales Live on BBC One Wales at 22:40 GMT