Man United saved me after my father took his own life

Man United saved me after my father took his own life

"Because my father's suicide has had an effect on me throughout my life, I want to give back to those who are suffering in silence."

Losing a parent is traumatic for any child, but for James Lindemann, losing his father to suicide has had a life-long effect.

James was only 16 years old when his father, Leo, committed suicide at the age of 44.

It would contribute to the adolescent James grappling with his own mental health, and he would later confess that he went off the rails.


        He did, however, find strength from two uncles, supportive mates, and Manchester United's 'family' of fans, whom he credits with pulling him through.

        Man United saved me after my father took his own life

        Now, exactly 30 years after his father's death, James from Hale is able to speak about his experiences in order to increase mental health awareness and avoid future suicides.

        “When my father died, I was looked after by some of the older lads I met helping Manchester United - it is a big family really,” James, 46, said.

        “Unfortunately, I never got to know my father well; however, I have fond memories of driving over from Leeds to Old Trafford with him when I was a young child.

        “After he died, United became my stress reliever, and I would go to away games all over the world from my late teens to my early 30s, and it really was a tool to keep my mind off real life.”

        Man United saved me after my father took his own life

        Now, 30 years later, James wants to celebrate his father's death by raising mental health awareness with a 26-mile charity walk in one day, finishing at the Gildersome Jewish cemetery in Leeds, where his father is buried.

        And the lifelong Red is willing to wear the shirts of rivals Leeds United, Liverpool, and City in order to collect more funds for Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), which is leading a movement against suicide, the single leading cause of death among men under 45 in the UK.

        “My father's suicide has had an effect on me my whole life, so I want to give back to those who are suffering in silence,” James says.

        “I am fortunate to have had some family members and wonderful friends who have always had my back, immediately after my father's death and for the next 30 years.”

        James, a director of a green energy headhunting company, was at boarding school at Repton School in Derbyshire when he received the call that his father had died.

        “In the years leading up to my father's death, I was aware he had mental health issues,” he recalled.

        Man United saved me after my father took his own life

        “He had a psychiatric depression diagnosis.

        “My father was a real character, bigger than life, but he couldn't get through his mental health problems. "I believe it was the stresses of life that affected people's mental state."

        James would never forget the day he received the devastating news.

        “I recall being at boarding school and calling my mother on a Saturday night, and she told me he'd gone to the bakery to get bagels. I didn't see something out of the ordinary, but I do recall hearing voices in the background. 

        Man United saved me after my father took his own life

        The next day, I saw my father's two brothers and a best friend walking into school. I dashed in and asked, "Is it, Dad?" Is he no longer alive? Is he committed suicide?' "I never knew he was sick because I knew he was sick."

        Following his father's passing, James was to have an enduring reminder of his fondest times with him at their beloved Manchester United.

        “The last time I really saw my dad was at the 1991 Wembley Rumbelows league cup final, ironically the next day there was an image of myself and my father in the crowds cheering on United,” James says.

        James never returned to boarding school, and in order to deal with his emotions, he left the family home to live alone and attempt to restore his broken life.

        "At the moment, no one spoke to me about it," he says. "I didn't feel comfortable discussing his suicide with my mother."

        James would later struggle with his own mental health issues, and at the age of 21, he had a psychotic episode while traveling in India.

        His family in Manchester stepped in, and James was able to recover thanks to medical assistance.

        But it wasn't until recently that he felt free to express his thoughts about what had happened.

        “Someone asked me if I thought suicide was a selfish act. It's not so much about that as it is about the impact it has on the loved ones who are left behind. "Unfortunately, their life has come to an end, so everyone else must carry on," James says.

        Man United saved me after my father took his own life

        Mental Health Awareness Week is May 10-16, and while the topic is much more discussed than in the past, James believes it is still taboo for many.

        “I don't think things have improved all that much,” the father of three said.

        “On average, 175 people commit suicide in the United Kingdom per week, with men constituting 75% of those who do so.

        “Many people believe they must be proud, exhibit machismo, and cannot speak freely.

        “It may sound cliche, but there is still someone to speak to.

        “I believe it is important that if anyone is going through a tough time, they pick up the phone and talk to someone.

        "It's not about being the dominant male – it's so much easier to speak than to suffer in silence."

        James, who is married to Rachael, believes he has finally found the right balance in his own life, with lockdown providing him with the opportunity to improve his physical and mental fitness.

        "I now have a healthy outlook and the processes in place to avoid problems with my mental health from recurring."

        “Because of my life experiences, I have a voice and the strength of character to give back.

        “The lockdowns were also beneficial to me because I finally got myself in shape.

        “Because exercise has become a fantastic endorphin stimulant for me, building positive mental strength has led me to take on this challenge.”

        And being a father to Jacob, 18, Frankie, 8, and Freya, 5, has helped him to form father-child bonds that he never had as a child.

        "I am very lucky and proud to have a relationship with my 18-year-old son Jacob that I never had with my Father," he says. He's like my best friend, and we can talk about everything. "I treasure what I have for all of my children."

        He's now looking forward to his charity walk on May 11 in Leeds, where he'll be joined by a slew of mates from both sides of the Pennines.

        Man United saved me after my father took his own life

        He isn't looking forward to donning the football shirts of Manchester United's fiercest rivals.

        James has now raised £15,000 and laughs, saying, "People should dig deep because wearing these team shirts will never happen again!"

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