depression mental health Mental Health Mondays motivation psychology

Mental Health Mondays – 3. My friend Alexei

Today I want to talk to you about my friend Alexei.

We met back in 2019, on a cool October morning. I had just moved to Reggio Calabria, in South Italy working as an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher and I spent my morning lesson planning, then Alexei walked in. I still remember the first time I heard his beautiful, deep voice and Southern African accent, and I saw his wide smile.

Alexei had an infectious laughter and a unique, wicked sense of humour. He loved sarcasm and self-depracating humour. Although he was raised in South Africa, his parents were also Greek and he spoke a bit of Greek too. He loved and cared about everyone around him, one of the most empathetic people I’ve met. We connected straight away.

Despite a global pandemic forcing us to spend half of our teaching year indoors and online we managed to make unforgettable memories together like our long weekend in Palermo, wandering around, shopping, drinking, having a laugh and chatting about life, our random pizza dinners in town, co-presenting quiz night, our beach day in Tropea with the rest of the Reggio gang and many, many more little, every day interactions.

We never made it to Taormina or Pentadattilo together before leaving Reggio like we said we would, but he promised to visit me in Cyprus soon.

We messaged each other every now and then but we hadn’t chatted for about a year. Last time we spoke he was really happy with his new job and life in Vienna.

Suddenly, 5 days ago I saw a Facebook post about Alexei, that I still cannot believe.

He died a few weeks ago. He took his own life.

It breaks my heart to think how horrible and lonely it must have been for him. He cared deeply for so many people and we would all have supported him if he had just reached out. I also feel incredibly guilty I let life get in the way and we lost touch for a while.

Depression kills, and even more so amongst men, since society taught them since they were children that sharing their feelings somehow make them look ‘weak’. Alexei had no issue expressing his feelings and his struggles, he was always open about his life, his sexuality and his frustrations, which makes it even harder to believe he kept all this struggle for hismel and reached a point that life was so unbearable for him that he didn’t want to live anymore.

The reason I’m sharing this story is to remind myself and everyone else to keep in touch and check in with our friends and loved ones regularly and please please, if you are struggling, tell someone, you don’t have to go through it alone.

Alexei’s death was incredibly sad and painful for all of us who knew him and we’ve been sharing photos and stories of Alexei with each other over the last week, because that’s how we’ll remember him, having a laugh together, hearing his beautiful laughter and picturing his gorgeous smile.

Ci vendiamo Alexei, we love you.

Eleni

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