Helen’s death was my worst nightmare. But I’m trying to keep her memory alive
Losing her sister to suicide four years ago caused June Simkiss to hit rock bottom. Now she has turned her heartache around to help others. The Telegraph has teamed up with Mind, the mental health charity, to run a series of articles marking this week’s W
FOUR years ago this month, June Simkiss woke up to her worst nightmare. Her sister Helen Crowley had taken her own life, at the age of 27.
June, a married mum-of-two from Coventry, had suffered ongoing mental health problems since her teens. But Helen’s death by suicide caused her to hit rock bottom.
Four years on, and June has turned the heartache into a reason to help others.
Grateful for the support she received from Coventry and Warwickshire Mind, June has become a volunteer with the charity – so Helen’s death is not in vain.
Helen had depression and tragically took her own life following her ex-partner’s own suicide five years before.
He was 23 years old when he died and June believes her sister blamed herself – but masked her true feelings.
Recalling the devastating news on the morning of October 27, 2013, June said: “I woke to my husband sitting down on the bed next to me, the look on his face said it all.
“My mother’s partner had called him to say that Helen had taken her life in the early hours of the morning. Our brother Edward had found her.
“In that moment I felt like I had woken up into my worst nightmare.
“I had to make the call to tell my father. He made the most awful noise and dropped the phone.
“I could hear him sobbing, it was just awful. I then had to go on and make calls to other various family and friends.
“The whole day was a complete blur.
“I just remember speaking to the policeman who brought the suicide note to us and asking over and over if he was really sure it was her. I just didn’t want to believe it.
“Later that evening, I went to see her body in the hospital with her best friend. That image will stay with me until the day I die.”
June volunteered for two-and-a-half years before becoming a Wellbeing Support Worker at the Wellbeing Hub in Rugby in December last year. The Hub is one of several in the area run by the charity to offer free drop-in support services for anyone who might need it.
“I can honestly say that without the love and support of my husband, children, family and wonderful friends, I wouldn’t be here today,” admits June.
“Helen was my best friend as well as my sister.
“I miss the sound of her laugh, it was so infectious, and that smile.
“She had the most amazing smile and brilliant white teeth. People would always comment on that and her beautiful dark hair which permanently shined, as did she.
“She was such a beautiful person both inside and out.”
She adds: “I remember thinking at that time of Helen’s death, that if I could just help one person, then her death wouldn’t be in vain. I miss Helen terribly and will always grieve for her, however, by doing the work that I do, I feel like I am keeping her memory alive in a way.
“I know she would be proud of me.”
June’s time as a volunteer included work for Coventry and Warwickshire Mind’s Befriending Service for adults, which needs volunteers to help provide support in the community.
Can you spare two hours a week to support someone who is isolated due to their mental health? All volunteers are given full training, expenses and support.
If you are interested in finding out about this and other volunteering opportunities with Coventry and Warwickshire Mind, visit cwmind.org.uk or call 024 7655 2847.
Helen was my best friend as well as my sister. I miss the sound of her laugh June Simkiss
June Simkiss and below, with her sister Helen