A heartbroken family has told how mental health problems drove a dad-of-two to take his life.
Lee Downey’s loved ones have been left devastated by his death after his body was discovered on Seaham beach.
His family have spoken out about their ‘gentle giant’ and his struggle with depression and psychosis, in a bid to raise awareness of mental health and get more people to open up about it.
The Sunderland man, who leaves partner, Adele Gale, 33, stepson, Bailey, 14 and daughter, four-year-old Millie, went missing on Sunday, March 5, and was last seen walking on the beach the following morning.
His family faced an agonising wait, while police continued searching for 35-year-old Lee, until his body was found two days later.
Mum Lynn Metcalf, 55, said: “It was the longest few days of my life. Even though I knew in the back of my mind he had gone, you keep hoping and hoping that he would be found alive.”
He just loved too much, he had a huge heartJodie Metcalf
At 6ft 5ins-tall, Lee, from the Hollycarrside area, was known to everyone as a gentle giant with a big heart.
Lynn said: “He was really loving and soft hearted and he absolutely adored his children. He was a real family man and loved us all.
“He loved nature and the outdoors and was always taking the kids down the dene or to the beach, he just loved being outside.”
Lee’s sister, Jodie Metcalf, 26, said: “I think he just loved too much, he had a huge heart.”
The family said Lee had been struggling with depression and then things turned worse when he began hearing voices and was diagnosed with psychosis in January.
Lee’s brother, Chad Metcalf, 23, said: “For the last six months he just wasn’t Lee anymore, he was so ill.”
Mum-of-one, Jodie, who lives in Grindon, said Lee was in a terrible state of mind, hearing voices all the time and felt like everyone was plotting against him.
She said: “It must be terrible to be suffering like that and initially we didn’t know where to turn.”
Lynn said: “He would cry and just say he wanted it to stop. I keep telling myself that he is at peace now and in a happier place.”
The mother-of-four, said she believed Lee had been suffering for a lot longer than they knew and didn’t want to burden his family.
She said: “We just want to raise awareness of mental health. If it can save one life and one family from going through what we are, then that would be great.”
Popular Lee, who loved motorbikes, made friends wherever he went and his family say everyone who knew him has been stunned and saddened by his death.
Lee also leaves his stepdad, Colin Metcalf, 54, brother, Scott, 27, two nieces and a nephew. Funeral details are still to be confirmed.
Where you can get help:
Samaritans - phone 116 123 at any time.
Turn To Me - an online counselling service at www.turn2me.org.
Mind - at www.mind.org.uk or 0300 123 3393.
SANE - 0300 304 7000.
The Living Way - North Sands Business Centre, Sunderland, 07738 634877.
The Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team - Hopewood Park, Ryhope, 0303 123 1145.