Martin Andrew Sutherland

On the 15th December 2011, our precious, talented and beautiful son Martin Andrew Sutherland took his own life after suffering many years of depression, social phobia and chronic insomnia. Left stunned, bewildered and deeply, deeply saddened by this tragic event, we chose to give our support to a charity dedicated to investigating the causes of and cures for mental illness. Martin’s family and friends want to try to make a difference for other families, and so have been fund-raising in various ways for MHRUK; walks, swims, runs, music evenings, and a planned comedy evening. If understanding and treatments were better, perhaps Martin would have still been with us.

Just why had Martin – whose depression had been described as ‘treatment resistant’ – not been able to be helped by the medication and the little bit of professional support he had received? Why…why…why…? We will not find the answers to our questions any time soon, but it is imperative that research be done into the insidious and debilitating condition that is called ‘mental illness’…just think of the hope that some cancer patients now have because of the investigative successes of research into that illness. The same should be done for those suffering from mental illness. People need hope. Perhaps, like the logo on his t-shirt - which still hangs in his wardrobe at home - Martin was just “Sick of being sick, Tired of being tired, Bored of being bored”….the words of [one of his favourite bands,] the Manic Street Preachers, from their song ‘My Little Empire’. Our family became involved with MHRUK just after Christmas 2011 [because we wanted to make sure that in the future people like Martin wouldn’t feel death was the only option.]

Martin was born in Preston, Lancashire in August 1984. Martin was a very happy child, his natural intelligence, wit and sense of adventure attracting others to him like a magnet. As he grew, he was never one for talking much, but watched everything with great interest, read books constantly and had an enquiring mind. [It was obvious that music was important to him from an early age.] By age 9 he had ‘found’ the Beatles – we still have his detailed project on the group – and for a while he thought he might like to grow up and be John Lennon, soon changing to Eric Clapton when later that year he started to learn to play the guitar. This time the passion was life-long, and Martin became a very talented musician with an eclectic taste in music and a natural talent on his instrument of choice – the guitar…though he could also be called upon as a percussionist and tried his hand at the cello. He was known throughout his secondary school as ‘the guitarist’ in the ‘Big Band’. In truth, Martin’s guitar playing was widely admired and it gave him a measure of social acceptability which made up for the lack of confidence in himself and awkwardness with people he felt throughout adolescence, and which seriously worsened as he got older.

While at secondary school Martin appeared content, was socially confident, had a wide group of friends and seemed happy with his lot in life. However, he didn’t like change too much, and found adapting to the common transitions in life quite difficult. It was after leaving his secondary school that he seems to have lost his way and life became increasingly problematic for him. Martin started at Leeds University, studying music. He developed anxiety and social phobia, and it was then that he was first put on antidepressants. The difficult break-up of a relationship did nothing to help his mood and he turned to alcohol, which through time became more and more of a problem for him – and he started self-harming. For some reason he just seemed to feel that he was such an unworthy person.

After an unsuccessful first year, Martin changed his course at Leeds to Latin American history but his health and well-being deteriorated to the point that he had to return home and take some time out. He was due to return to University, but in the event decided to stay at home and transferred to Lancaster University. He was allowed to start in the 2nd year of the history course they offered despite his problems, remarkably he successfully completed the course, gaining a 1st Class Honours degree. Martin was justifiably proud of his achievement, but felt it was mitigated by his increasing difficulty in social situations. He was then given funding by Lancaster University to complete a Masters degree in historical research, which he did successfully, graduating with Distinction on 15th December 2010.


After his Masters, Martin seemed at a bit of a loss as to what to do next. He was offered a place at University College London to do a PhD in history, but the lack of both funding and his perceived inability to look after himself denied him the chance to take up this offer. Eventually, he decided to return to his first love of music and accepted a place at Lancaster University to study music technology. Martin had become preoccupied with acquiring some ‘practical’ skills in which he felt himself to be completely lacking. He very successfully completed the 1st year of this course but he did not return to start the second year, his illness seeming to overwhelm him when his first year ended in June.

As a highly intelligent person and very capable researcher, Martin was only too aware of his own issues and, with support from professionals being sympathetic but ultimately ineffective, and sometimes (sadly) sanctimonious and inept, Martin did not feel able to rely on anyone for help. In March 2011 Martin had a seizure in the street and spent 4 days in hospital. The cause was apparently related to sudden alcohol withdrawal. The hospital withdrew all his medication and Martin had hopes that his problems thus highlighted might then be addressed. This unfortunately did not happen and Martin’s condition deteriorated to such an extent that just a few weeks later the Crisis Mental Health Team was called to see him at home and he was put back on antidepressants. His chronic insomnia was treated with sleeping tablets to help him get some respite and he was put on B12 injections which continued for the rest of his life.

From June 2011 Martin started to withdraw from all of us who cared about him. Phone calls and emails went unanswered; he rarely left the solitude of his room; rarely talked; rarely washed and ate little. He could not indulge his passion for music and reading. He described everything as being “a jumble…” inside his head. He felt his life was “intolerable”. He was suffering and in great anguish, but his inner strength (for him both a blessing and a curse) meant that he still managed to hide the depth of his despair. Despite really struggling at this time, his devotion and love for his sister encouraged him to make the trip to Mexico to attend her wedding. This was the last time Heather saw her beloved brother. Martin, at heart was a warm, empathetic person, very articulate and proud enough not to want to be seen when he was at his lowest ebb. He was also very, very tired.

Martin and those of us who knew him laughed loud and laughed often. Martin’s quick and acid wit and unique take on life are just two of the things about him that those of us left behind miss greatly. He was disparaging about unnecessary pomposity; he loved Private Eye! He tried to get us all to see just what was really important and he made us laugh. The absolute tragedy of his illness was that in his last few months he was robbed of his glorious sense of humour and became angry at everything and everyone; he lost his passion for music, for reading, and for history, and he withdrew from the company of his friends. He said "I've no friends, I've no skills, I've no opinions ... I am nothing."

Martin was wrong. He is greatly missed. But what was it like to be Martin? Let Martin tell you in his own articulate and heart-breaking words…words that he wrote for a blog he contributed to a few weeks before he died.

A VACUUM AND A PARADOX

I don’t think I can live any longer in a vacuum; nor can I live with the unwavering paradox of desperately craving company and isolation at one and the same time.

I admire everyone who has posted their stories here, and especially those who’ve accepted the struggle. Those who can - and indeed do - merit unequivocal praise and admiration (and not a little awe). But for myself, I'm extremely tired; just exhausted every day.

I have come to the point now (I'm 27) whereby incessant commentary, self-criticism and constant fear have effectively annihilated whatever prior persona there may have been. I would renounce everything – everything – just to ‘be myself’ for 5 seconds… just ‘to do’, not ‘think to do’.

I go to meet people as if they were the gallows. I have tried everything I can think of but cannot conceive of it being otherwise. My only passions were music and history. But this whatever-it-is has jumped spheres and now infects my inner world: I am absolutely, distressingly indifferent.

Everything is subordinate to the problem/ disease/ whatever it’s called. Life, passion can only have meaning if you share it. I can’t talk to people. And from such little seeds do massive weeds grow.

Martin Andrew Sutherland was by no means ‘Mr Perfect’; he was untidy, could be lazy, was definitely contrary and often stubborn. Bu he was also creative, thought-provoking, loyal and loved. He deserved so much more. Life with Martin was not easy, but as those of us who knew him are finding out, life without him is just so much harder. Spare a thought for our Martin on the 11th August 2012 which is his birthday. He would have been 28 years of age. He will be forever 27.

Fundraisers that have been done in Marthin's honour:
MCR Scenewipe's All Killer, All Dayer