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‘You don’t expect your children to take their lives’, says mum

‘You don’t expect your children to take their lives’, says mum

Image source, Leanda Kelly

Image caption, Stevie and Tanya Kordek were so close they were like twins, their mother said

  • Author, Rachael McMenemy
  • Role, BBC News, Hertfordshire

A mother grieving the loss of two of her three children who took their own lives said she never imagined it was possible.

Tanya and Stevie Kordek began experiencing mental health problems as teenagers but struggled to get help as adults, their mother said.

Inspired by her children, Leanda Kelly, from St Albans, is calling for better awareness of mental health.

“You might lose two children in a road traffic accident but I lost two children to suicide,” she said.

The 66-year-old said she struggled not to feel like she had “let them down” and said their deaths were “heartbreaking”.

Ms Kordek died in 2018 and her brother died in 2023, both were aged 44.

She said: “Tanya made the decision she didn’t want to live, she went on the road to self-destruction.”

Her daughter had made repeated suicide attempts but her death was “still horrible and left me in a world of disbelief,” she said.

Mrs Kelly said her son Stevie took his sister’s death “particularly hard” as the two were like “twins of different ages”.

“I spent her life trying to keep her alive and protect her, she was my baby, beautiful , my first born.

“But then Stevie died and it ripped my heart out.”

Mr Kordek, who had struggled with addiction, had seemed to turn his life around, and had been sober for four years when he died, she said.

Mrs Kelly said as a result his death was completely unexpected.

In July 2023 he suddenly presented at hospital feeling suicidal but was sent home with advice that someone would call him.

He had no contact with mental health services before he was found dead six days later at home, she told the BBC.

  • If you are suffering distress or despair and need support, including urgent support, a list of organisations that can help is available here.

‘They didn’t see their worth’

Image source, Leanda Kelly

Image caption, Leanda Kelly says after her children (both pictured) died many people came forward to say they had offered them help with their own mental health struggles

After both her children died, Mrs Kelly said she was inundated by people saying they pair had helped them with their own mental health struggles.

“All that kindness they had but they weren’t kind to themselves, they didn’t see their worth and their beauty.

“I describe my life now as I have lost two of the most precious things in the world, my babies, and I am walking in their shoes,” she said.

Mrs Kelly urged others to look at the reasons a person might be struggling, rather than making assumptions.

“Drugs, homelessness, alcoholism, eating disorders, all mental health, these are addictions or symptomatic of a bigger problem.

“I wish people were more open about it.

“With chicken pox or pregnancy, you can see it. But mental health, it’s silent, you don’t see it. You don’t wear a badge saying be gentle with me,” she said.

Image source, Leanda Kelly

Image caption, Mrs Kelly hopes to raise more awareness of mental health and reduce stigmas

Since her children died, Mrs Kelly has focused on raising awareness and funds for mental health charities.

She hopes to raise £10,000 through events at Pure Colours tattoo in St Albans in which people donate money in exchange for a tattoo.

She said: “It keeps me focused and stops me rocking in a corner grieving for my babies.”

More than 300 people have had tattoos at previous events, raising £6,400 to date.

Image source, Leanda Kelly

Image caption, Tattoos incorporating a semi-colon have become a symbol for people who have faced mental health challenges

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