Suzanne and Dean
Suzanne and DeanImage by: Movember
Suzanne and Dean
9 November 2022

Suzanne Baum: The Club

5 minutes read time

Suzanne Baum, 49, is a lifestyle editor and celebrity interviewer, who lives in North West London, with her husband and their three sons. As someone who also regularly writes on mental health, Suzanne opens up about her own trauma losing a best friend to suicide several weeks ago.

THE club. One that nobody ever wants to be a part of. One that I never, ever imagined I would belong too. Yet one that seems, sadly, only too common.

Three weeks ago today, I joined that club. A community of people affected by suicide. It still feels like a very, very bad dream. In the little sleep both my husband and I have had, we both wake up throughout the night hoping this awful nightmare we are living through is in fact that – a nightmare. Losing our 48-year-old best mate Dean to suicide is still impossible to believe. Incomprehensible in fact. For there were zero warning signs, red flags or any obvious signs of mental health issues that we were aware our friend of 30 years was suffering from.

Dean’s sudden and completely out the blue death is of course far, far worse for his beautiful wife and three kids. His mother and brother too, his wide and loving family, are facing such heartache. Their terrible loss is on a scale of despair nobody should ever have to witness, and as one of Dean’s best friends, I did question if I had a right to feel so crushed, a right to talk about my feelings when theirs must be far more raw, painful and sad. Their grief wasn’t mine to “jump on” but, as a journalist, I knew I could hopefully use my emotions – and voice – to turn this awful nightmare into a positive in some tiny way. Perhaps, I thought, being able to express my feelings in writing and wear my heart on my sleeve – it could possibly not only open up the narrative surrounding suicide, but even help save a life. Possibly.

" As a tight group of friends we are lucky to have each other as a vital support system. We know that. "

After all, in my job as a celebrity interviewer, I often try and ensure that one question I ask is steered towards their mental health. I felt, having had hundreds of stars open up to me over the years, I actually had no right NOT to talk about my own when asked. I’ve always prided myself on being authentic and real as a journalist, so speaking openly about how this tragedy has floored me, is part of who I am.

My emotions are all over the place. Ask me how I am and I tend to answer “overwhelmingly sad.” Because I am. I’m also in disbelief, shock, despair and my anxiety has gone through the roof. Some days I’ll have a heavy heart – a feeling as though an elephant is thudding on my chest – and the insomnia doesn’t help. However, I am having good days too – made even better when I look on in awe at my friend Judianne, coping with the bereavement of her husband and still managing to try and get through the days, not only supporting her own family, but us, her friends too.

As a tight group of friends we are lucky to have each other as a vital support system. We know that. We have spent most weekends since the incident realising how others in this situation may not have this lifeline. We don’t wallow in self despair because we are sensible enough to try to get on with our “new” lives. However, Dean’s death has changed everything. He was the life and soul of the party, the kindest soul you’d ever meet. Professionally he was a genius at work, a wonderful family man, huge charity supporter and loyal friend. It has broken us that he is no longer here.

I have written hundreds of articles on mental health, and am not embarrassed to admit these past few weeks I have become consumed by trying to understand suicide – a word I have never googled, before now. And, I realise, ashamedly, I didn’t know that it is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 50 in this country.

Grief is of course a universal experience all human beings encounter. Yet, my research has led me to discover suicide has been described as a death like no other. Death by suicide stuns with soul-crushing surprise, leaving family and friends not only grieving the unexpected death, but confused and traumatised by this haunting loss. And it is a haunting loss.

For our friend Dean never stopped talking, until now. His voice used to fill the room and now the silence is deafening. It is though there is a void, a haunting dark hole that has swallowed him up. And that is why – although my voice has cracked and my words don’t flow as easily as they once did – I am determined to keep talking about mental health through my work.

I’m used to filling pages with everything from words on collagen-boosting products to interviews with Olympians and Love Island contestants. I don’t want to write about suicide, let alone say the word out loud. Yet, as a journalist personally effected, as someone who uses my ever so tiny platform to promote everything from the best fitness gadgets to the latest new restaurant, I’d be ashamed of myself – and my journalistic skills – not to touch upon the subject.

In the same way that talking about Aids and cancer used to have a stigma attached towards it - and the way we have recently seen the topic of menopause so openly discussed – the mental health crisis - and suicide in particular - needs to be spoken about without fear or shame. Talking about things can help open conversations, get people to offload if they feel vulnerable and realise you are not alone. And that is why for me – talking about my grief, shock and sadness - is so vitally important.

Suicide and mental health is something that needs to be destigmatised to stop other people suffering needlessly in silence. And THE club may not be one I want to be a part of – yet, now I am a member, I am determined to keep beating the drum to the music, stomping my feet, lighting up the darkness and ensuring my voice can get heard in supporting Movember – and all mental health campaigns - in any way I can.

Read more about Suzanne: Suzanne Baum/Journalist (@suzanne_baum) • Instagram photos and videos

If you, or someone you know, is feeling low, don’t hesitate to reach out for support using these local support resources.

To speak with someone immediately, call The Samaritans on 116 123 or message the Shout text line on 85258.

If you’re ever worried that someone’s life is in immediate danger, call 999 or go directly to emergency services.