A SANDWELL officer who admits he was in a “really dark place" after the death of his brother has shared his story today on World Suicide Prevention Day to help give hope to those feeling helpless.

PC Stephen Thompson, who works for the Sandwell Partnerships team as an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer, was inconsolable when his brother Paul, aged 50, was killed in a road crash in Wolverhampton in November 2018.

The grief of losing his only sibling after also losing his parents triggered feelings he had never felt before, he said.

PC Thompson, who has been with West Midlands Police force for nearly 18 years, told how his brother - who was just weeks away from retiring - had been out on his bike when a lorry crashed into him and the driver had tested positive for cocaine use.

He said: “I was truly in pieces. Losing my older brother and only sibling was hard enough, but knowing it could have been avoided and not getting to say goodbye to him really broke my heart.

“I went into a really low period of my life where I struggled with my grief and at one point I couldn’t see any way out of my sadness.

“Trying to explain to people how this destroys you is so hard, being so exhausted but not able to sleep, being constantly hungry but when food is in front of you not eating anything."

He said he felt "absolute anger" that someone had killed his so dearly loved brother and he added: "That anger hasn’t really left me, but I’ve learnt to cope."

When the case went to court and the driver of the lorry pleased not guilty, he sought medical help for severe anxiety and began taking antidepressants and he said: "I didn’t want to face anyone or do anything.

“Being a police officer, some people think you’re super strong and that nothing can faze you, but we are all human and we experience the same emotions as everyone else. I was just so down in those days and couldn’t even get the strength to go to work to do the job I love.

“I actually seriously thought about ending my life."

PC Thompson, however, reluctantly managed to start talking to people and getting things off his chest and he said: “I got help from charities and support groups and meeting people in a similar position to me made a massive difference to my mental health, just knowing I wasn’t alone.

“I’ve found that writing down my thoughts has helped me to offload in a constructive way and would really recommend it to others."

He also urged people going through a troubling time to seek support from friends, family, colleagues, doctors and support groups and he added: "I would recommend Tough Enough to Care - a mental health group for men. There’s no shame in talking about your feelings, especially if it helps to save yours and other people’s lives.

“Dudley Community Church supported me with counselling and our West Midlands Police Occupational Health team were so helpful. It’s worth utilising any resources available, whether that’s at work or by researching groups online. Just don’t ever give up."

He urged people not to "think the bad days will last forever" and added: “Different things work for different people, for some, walking or the gym will help, for others, watching TV or pampering themselves - whatever it is, be brave and reach out to people and remember that better days are coming.

“For me, my team at work allowed me to balance my grief, anger and confusion with a proverbial arm around my shoulder, leaving me knowing that I had their support at any time of the day. How do I repay that? All I can say is that I am truly thankful to everyone that helped me. I am still on my journey to recovery, but I know I will get there.

“At my group sessions I learnt the hardest step you will take is the one that brings you through the door."

In January this year, Joseph Large, aged 30, from Woodcross Lane, Coseley, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drugs. He was also banned from driving for two years.

According to the charity Samaritans, in 2018 more than 6,800 people died of suicide in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

If you or anyone you know needs support, call the Samaritans on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org or go to samaritans.org.

The following agencies can also help: NHS - nhs.uk/conditions/suicide, Tough Enough to Care - toughenoughtocare.help, National Suicide Prevention Alliance - nspa.org.uk, Papyrus - papyrus-uk.org, and MIND - mind.org.uk.