This week, I found out that my dear friend Elliott Johnson had passed away at the age of 21. He was found on railway tracks, and his passing obviously affects everyone that knows him immensely.
Elliott was a wonderful friend. He was kind and caring to a fault. He was honest and loyal, polite and supportive. Above all, he was seemingly always fun. He had his whole future ahead of him and an incredible amount of talent to do what he wanted with it. It numbs me to think he felt he had no option but to end his own life.
Elliott had spoken to me about problems he’d faced before. He faced them stoically and he talked me through difficulties that I’d faced, too. But stoicism sadly, is often not enough.
Society needs to change so that people – and young men in particular – feel freer to open up and talk about mental health. It doesn’t make you any less strong, or any less of a man, to tell someone you have depression, any more than it does to tell someone you have cancer.
I hadn’t planned to say anything about it – it truly hasn’t begun to sink in – but there are just times you have speak out. Because I don’t want the same thing that Elliott went through, as I have and many others, to happen to anyone else and feel they don’t have any option.
As a result, I made a short, impromptu speech to Camden Council on the subject just a few hours after I found out. Apologies for my over-animation, my fast talking, and my misspeaks – I can’t say I can really keep myself together writing now, and it took all my effort not to break down while speaking the other night.
We’ll all miss you, Elliott – you deserved a kinder world than this, and I want us to help built it, together.
RIP, EJ. x