Tracy Maginn, Kim Mattu and Sheena Hamid want to change the way we approach mental health issues
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The heartbroken mums of two half brothers who took their own lives within a year of each other say they want to stop other families going through their grief.
Sheena Hamid’s son Leon Junior, 21, died by suicide on May 23, 2020 after struggling with his mental health. Sheena and Leon’s friend Kim raised the alarm and called police after Leon went missing. Tragically, his body was found in Shorne Woods Country Park in Gravesend, Kent hours later.
In April of this year, Tracy Maginn’s son Tashan Larmond-Maginn, 26, disappeared from his flat. After a police search lasting several days, Tashan’s body was discovered in the same park on April 20, 2021.
Speaking about Leon, Sheena told The Mirror: “He always had a smile on his face. He was so lovely and bubbly.
Leon Junior was just 21 years old when he died by suicide in May 2020
“He was always very intelligent – when he was little and his friends were out playing football, he was inside practising his spelling.”
Tashan and Leon were close growing up and, despite not seeing each other as often when they grew up, they remained friends.
“They might have fallen out and bickered sometimes but they always had each other's backs,” Tracy said.
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She described Tashan, a talented musician, as generous and kind, always thinking of others above himself.
“If he walked past a homeless person and only had five pounds to his name, he’d give it away,” she said.
He was passionate about getting people to confront their struggles and even appeared in a music video about mental health issues.
Tashan Larmond-Maginn died by suicide less than a year after his brother died, in April 2021
Leon shared his brother’s caring nature, checking in on his family and friends whenever he could.
Sheena said: “Since Leon died, numerous people have told me that whenever they were unhappy or going through struggles, Leon was there for them.”
Leon’s family and friends believe he was so caring for others that he didn’t speak to anyone else about his own struggles.
His lifelong friend Kim Mattu told the Mirror: “So many people are ashamed to talk about mental health, so it’s hard to know if someone’s having a hard time. Leon’s death was such a shock to everyone.”
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The talented dancer and gymnast had appeared on E4 reality show Club Rep Wars when he was working in Tenerife. Just before he died, Leon found out he’d been accepted to appear on Channel 4 show, The Circle.
After he passed away, his brother Tashan, who had battled mental health problems in the past, struggled to cope.
“He was devastated when Leon died,” Tracy said. “He took it really hard.”
Tracy, who was in hospital having treatment on her lungs when Tashan passed away, got a phone call from police to tell her he’d gone missing.
Leon Junior and Kim Mattu had been close friends for years, with Leon always caring for Kim
“I don’t know why I did this or what made me say it, but I asked the police if they’d searched in the park where his brother died last year,” she recalled.
Once she’d been discharged, Tracy tried to get out and join the search for her son, but she was still too ill.
Five days later, she received the devastating news Tashan had passed away. An inquest later found he had died by suicide.
Since Tashan’s tragic death, Tracy says she’s encouraging his younger siblings to talk about their feelings.
“When you’re feeling that low, you just need someone to talk to,” she said.
Sheena described her son Leon as "bubbly, intelligent and caring"
The mums hope to change the way we approach mental health issues in society today.
“We need to stop people feeling ashamed about their struggles and offer more counselling for people going through difficult times,” Sheena said.
Tracy, who has suffered from depression in the past, says she believes a combination of talking therapy and medication is needed.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of to ask for help,” she said, adding the pressure on young people makes them less likely to come forward for help.
“Our boys were very talented young men, but there’s so much pressure to look a certain way and be perfect. If you don’t look like that, you’re targeted for being different,” she said.
Kim, who has also battled mental health issues, added she has benefitted from counselling and being able to talk to people, rather than only being prescribed anti-depressants.
Sheena, Kim and more of Leon's friends signed a beautiful coloured bench with messages of love to Leon
On the anniversary of Leon’s death, Tracy, Sheena and Kim went back to the park where the boys died to pay tribute to them.
“We got everyone to sign a bench for Leon in different colours,” Kim said.
Now, the mums are on a mission to raise awareness of mental health problems and encourage people to talk to others if they’re struggling.
They’re also raising money for the Air Ambulance Kent Surrey and Sussex, which searched for the boys when they went missing.
They’re determined to keep their sons’ memories alive, and have put Leon and Tashan’s names forward to name a new youth club in the area.
“Our son’s lives mattered, and we won’t let them die in vain,” Tracy said.
*If you're struggling and need to talk, the Samaritans operate a free helpline open 24/7 on 116 123. Alternatively, you can email [email protected] or visit their site to find your local branch