A DAUGHTER has given a heartfelt account of the aftermath of her father’s suicide when she was a teenager.

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, Lisa Beard spoke to the Worcester News about the trauma she and her family suffered after her dad’s death 20 years ago.

Mrs Beard, from Worcester, was 18 when her dad Kevin Henry died, aged 46.

“He had suffered mental health problems for years and was receiving treatment, but it came as a massive shock,” she said.

Mrs Beard’s younger brother Chris Henry was 15 when their dad died, with their parents having split up nine years beforehand.

She said the two of them would visit Mr Henry on weekends and he remained on good terms with their mum Louise.

“My mum found it difficult and she carried a lot of guilt for a long time,” explained Mrs Beard, who soon after went to university to study psychology.

“For a few years I sort of escaped dealing with it,” she said. “I finished school and did the usual university thing – met lots of friends and spent too much time partying.

“I didn’t deal with it then and just shut it off. After university I went travelling and spent a year in New Zealand.”

Now 38, Mrs Beard said while she was simply putting off going home, she also felt she grew as a person during her time away.

“I believe meeting so many people throughout the world and experiencing so much allowed me to develop a depth of character that would have made my dad proud.

“It’s what I did, and I’m not upset that I did that.”

However, returning home to Eckington, where the family was from, Mrs Beard said, “it hit me”.

“I had to face normality and get a job and be in one space. The same environment I’d basically escaped for a few years. I did find it quite hard.”

She went on to teach an emotional therapy course – “but it was helping to heal me as much as anything” – before getting a job at a health food shop in Cheltenham.

Mrs Beard said she “fell in love with nutrition” during her seven years at the shop.

During that time, she was doing a part-time distance learning nutrition degree and is now a fully qualified nutritional therapist.

In 2005, she married Laurence Beard before moving to Worcester and they now have four-year-old daughter Alana.

“As I’ve grown older I’ve become more emotionally wise,” she explained. “I became more upset and there were a lot more tears.

“I got to a point where I faced it and went through it with the help of family, friends and my husband.

Referring to her mum and brother, she said: “We’re a close family and we’ve really always just set about living our lives.”

Mrs Beard said there was no support for her and her brother to help deal with the initial trauma at the time of her dad’s death.

“Looking back, no one came to us and said you need to go for counselling. We were not offered anything, and we simply had to find our own way.

“It’s taken me years to come to terms with the fact that it was really the illness that took hold of my dad, rather than him himself.

“It’s almost, at the start, very much: How could he leave me? Why is he abandoning me?

“But you come to understand that something had overwhelmed him. It’s like any other illness, like cancer – that’s how I made sense with it.”

She said her dad was a “very kind man” and was well-known in the county, playing football for Pershore Junior Old Boys.

“Sometimes he was just very absent minded. But he was friends with everyone. He’d walk down the street, and everyone would want to talk to him and he was happy. “But there were those periods where he’d appear a bit distant.

“I always thought it was due to the medication he was taking, but it was his depression.”

She said: “Sometimes I just think, my dad never got to meet my daughter and it’s very sad. We just have to live with that.”

Due to her combined interests in psychology and nutrition, Mrs Beard said she’s made it “a bit of a mission with my work to help those struggling” with mental health problems.

She works from the clinic rooms at Revital health food store, in The Shambles, Worcester and has started a clinic at Oakwell Health Centre in Cheltenham.

In September, Mrs Beard is undertaking a 24-hour hike at The Eden Project for charity MIND.

Visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LisaBeard5 to sponsor her.

See also lisanutrition.co.uk.