Home U.K Christmas campaign: The all-powerful message of Lacey-Maria, 11, who raised £5k for...

Christmas campaign: The all-powerful message of Lacey-Maria, 11, who raised £5k for Mind


Lacey-Maria Rees was devastated, angry, and confused when she was told her father Richard Williams, 27, had died. But more than three years later, Lacey-Maria is on a mission to try to help those struggling with their mental health like her dad. Lacey-Maria, 11, is backing the Daily Express Christmas campaign By Your Side. She has single-handedly raised £5,000 for Mind, Britain’s leading mental health charity, which helped her make sense of her loss. We have joined forces with Mind to raise awareness and vital funds.

Lacey-Maria’s message is as simple as it is powerful: We must all learn to be open and honest about how we feel – good or bad.

The youngster, of Carmarthen, west Wales, said: “There are others who have lost people close to them. I want to tell them it’s OK to speak about how you feel and it’s OK to cry. I don’t want anyone else to feel like I felt.

“Sometimes I get upset, especially on birthdays and anniversaries. But I have a memory box where I keep Dad’s aftershave, his driving licence, Mummy’s ring and photos. “I’ve also got a teddy bear made out of Daddy’s clothes. I just want to tell people to share the way they are feeling. Sometimes things are easier if you speak to someone.”

Lacey-Maria’s attitude is a hugely encouraging sign that among the UK’s schoolchildren there is no shame in expressing emotions and seeking help. It contrasts sharply with that of past generations who largely saw opening up and problems as a sign of weakness.

Lacey-Maria’s mother, Kelsey Rees, 30, split up with Richard in 2010, but they remained extremely close. But even she was unaware of the battles going on inside his head.

The tyre fitter tried to get help but was failed “massively” by an understaffed system, Kelsey claims. Lacey-Maria is very close to her grandparents, Richard’s parents Andrea and Steven. And like her, former stroke ward nurse Kelsey has channelled her suffering into trying to make a difference to others and become a mental health support worker.

She is based at St David’s Hospital, Carmarthen, and her father Anthony, 53, is a community psychiatric nurse. In the highest demand Mind had faced since it was founded in 1946, it was approached by 20 million people last year – about a third of the population. Three in five said their mental health worsened in lockdown and one-third did not seek help.

Mind now fears millions are “living on borrowed time” and it wants the Government to commit £1.459billion to help children and young people over the next three years.

Kelsey said: “I knew I could make a difference and wanted to do something after Richard died. I do not believe mental health is something that is bad one day and suddenly gets better the next. Richard was very outgoing and happy – he was a typical dad who did everything for his daughter. During the last 18 months there were no tell-tale signs as to how low he was.

“I knew Richard was suffering but he was very much, ‘Yeah, I’m really good’. He managed to come off drugs with no help or medication. But when he sought professional help the mental health team let him down massively. He went there more than once but was given no support whatsoever. Now his daughter does not have a father.”

Figures show that men are three times more likely than women to take their lives…it is the biggest killer of those under 45. Each day, 12 men kill themselves in Britain.

One of the reasons is they mistakenly believe they have to appear strong – seeking help is seen as a sign of weakness. But Lacey-Maria and Kelsey are now out to change that woefully dated attitude.

Kelsey said: “I am so incredibly proud of Lacey-Maria. She is so young but has dedicated her life to making people aware that help is available. She hasn’t been pushed – she has taken this all on herself because she knows she can make a difference.

“She doesn’t want anyone else to be left without a mum or a dad. So many people keep it bottled up. But talking to just one person can really make a difference.” Kelsey added: “There are not enough people working in child and adolescent mental health services or community crisis teams.

“This is why Richard was let down so badly. It takes so much time and when you are stuck on a waiting list, mental health deteriorates. It’s frustrating and so many are suffering. There are so many things that could make a difference. Talking, speaking up and fighting are so important.”

Kelsey urges those who are struggling: “The minute anyone feels like they are slipping, they should speak up.”

No matter what you are going through, you can call the Samaritans free any time on 116 123 or email [email protected]

* Mind Infoline: 0300 123 3393 is open 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday or you can email [email protected]

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