'We have to live without our beautiful boy': Leeds family devastated by loss of 20-year-old launch mental health campaign

The family of a 20-year-old man from Leeds who took his own life are urging young people to 'talk about their feelings' as they launch a mental health campaign.

Friday, 10th July 2020, 11:45 am

George Hackney, from Whinmoor, was a "loving and empathetic" swimming teacher and former Boston Spa Academy student who enjoyed playing football and Xbox.

He had no known mental health issues until he was diagnosed with psychosis in September 2019, a severe mental disorder causing a loss of contact with reality.

George's sister, Rebecca McCormack, said she first spotted signs that something was wrong and advised George to see a doctor.

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Moving tributes have been paid to George Hackney, 20, who took his own life in June

He was diagnosed with the illness and despite the support of his family and mental health services, George's condition deteriorated.

George began to hear voices and suffer with delusions which his family said had a "devastating" impact on him.

Rebecca, 29, said: "George was a beautiful boy, inside and out. He was loving, fun and had more empathy than anyone I have ever met.

"He was completely unique and had so many positive attributes, which we miss every day. He taught children to swim and has received so many positive messages since his passing, it shows how valued he was.

George's family are campaigning for better awareness of psychosis

"Until September 2019, he had no known mental health issues. Then he was diagnosed with psychosis, which took over his life.

"This illness is devastating. He was sectioned for a period of time. He had delusions and would hear voices. He stopped proper self care and thought we were trying to harm him.

"But he followed advice and got better and for a period of time, we got George back to around 90 per cent of his former self."

Sadly George relapsed in April and on Sunday, June 7 he took his own life.

Rebecca added: "We are devastated. We now have to live our lives without our beautiful boy."

A small funeral was held with George's immediate family, but his friends were unable to attend due to current Covid-19 restrictions.

Bryony Lucas, a close friend of George and former student at Boston Spa Academy, has organised a balloon release this Sunday for friends and wider family to say goodbye.

Biodegradable balloons will be used for the release.

Bryony said: "We are all completely shocked and utterly devastated by George’s passing, it's a heartbreaking time.

"I wanted to create a way for George’s large amount of family and friends to say their personal goodbyes.

"George touched many lives and made so many people smile, so with only immediate family at the funeral, this is the best way for us to say 'see you soon'.

"It’s so lovely to see how we have all come together at this sad time. George made everyone he met smile.

"I think it is important to remember that is it’s okay not to be okay. If you are struggling that’s okay - talk to someone."

Despite their tragic loss, George's family are campaigning for better awareness of psychosis and have raised more than £6,000 through a JustGiving page in his memory.

The family hope to start a charity using the money to support others who may be struggling with their mental health and to reduce stigma around conditions such as psychosis.

Rebecca, a mum-of-two, said: "When we first set up the page, we wondered how much we wanted to put out there. But we wanted to be honest and to make a difference, as there are some areas of mental health support that we felt weren't right for George.

"We've had a lot of support from people George’s age and we've received messages from people saying that their children, especially young males, are now talking to each other about their feelings.

"If you are struggling at all please don't mask your feelings - talk to someone."

Rebecca said the campaign is giving her the focus to help her 'get through each day'.

She added: "We want to raise awareness of psychosis, but we absolutely want to promote conversations about suicide no matter what people are going through.

"Lives have been devastated by suicide and any conversation around that would be amazing, we hope it will bring some positive out of what's been a horrendous negative.

"We will use George’s spirit to help others, as he helped so many people with his kind, empathetic heart."

The Samaritans can be contacted free at any time of day or night, call 116123 or email [email protected], or click here to visit the website.

Mind charity for mental health support can be contacted on 0300 123 3393​, text 86463 or email [email protected]

Locally, the Leeds, West Yorkshire and Harrogate Suicide Bereavement Service can help, call 0113 305 803 or click here to visit the website.