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The Stoke Sentinal
Agency Reporter Hayley Parker
05:00, 14 SEP 2018 Updated 12:21, 14 SEP 2018
Gareth Burndred has spoken out as he has set up a charity in Kelly’s memory
The grieving husband of a 37-year-old mum who hanged herself after shedding 20 stone has warned how losing weight cannot solve depression.
Gareth Burndred has spoken out about Kelly’s tragic death as he has set up a support group in her name to raise awareness of mental health and suicide.
Mother-of-one Kelly had appeared to be leading an enviable life with a caring husband, beautiful daughter and finally the figure she’d always longed for after going from 30 stone to just 10-and-a-half stone.
But as the pounds dropped off following a gastric bypass in 2015, she became a different person plagued by even darker thoughts.
Despite achieving her dream of being slim, Kelly’s new body did not bring her the happiness she expected.
It soon became clear that her fixation with her size which started as a young girl was just a symptom of her own internal struggle with her mental health.
After two unsuccessful suicide attempts, Kelly took her own life in April this year in a cop-cat of a well-known Hollywood star.
‘Kelly suffered most of her life…’
Gareth, aged 37, from Chesterton, said: “Kelly had suffered most of her life. On the outside, she was very bubbly and confident and had loads of friends. But inside, she was struggling.
“After our daughter was born she had crippling post-natal depression but she overcame it, or so we thought.
“We hoped, after the gastric bypass, that Kelly would find the happiness she craved. But her depression got much worse. She had blamed all her problems, all her life, on her weight. So when she became thin, and she wasn’t happy, she felt like there was nowhere else to turn.
“I want to stress how important it is to speak out. I just hope that Kelly’s story, and the support group, will help to save another life.”
Gareth and Kelly met on New Year’s Eve 2001 in a nightclub.
‘Kelly was bubbly and chatty…’
Gareth said: “We were two opposites, and yet we just clicked. I was quiet and shy, and Kelly was loud, bubbly and chatty.
“As I got to know her better, I realised that Kelly’s confidence was just a front. Deep down, she was very insecure and unhappy with the way she looked.”
Two years on, they had a daughter, Jess, now aged 14.
Gareth said: “Kelly had been told she would never be able to have children because she had polycystic ovaries so when she fell pregnant it was a huge surprise. We couldn’t wait for our baby to arrive.
‘She loved being a mum…’
“Kelly loved being a mum, but she showed signs straightaway of post-natal depression. She didn’t want to leave the house and she became very withdrawn and anxious.
“She wouldn’t put Jess to bed because she was afraid something might happen to her during the night. I put Jess to bed every night. She didn’t trust herself as a mum and it was hard.
“I tried to support Kelly, but I felt she was pushing me away. Our relationship suffered and we went through a really bad patch.
“But in time, the depression eased and we became closer again.”
And in 2008, Kelly proposed.
Gareth said: “Kelly was around a size 26 when we got married, but to me, she looked stunning. I know she was unhappy with her weight, but it just didn’t matter to me.
‘Bullied all through school…’
“She had been bullied all through school because of her weight. It had always been a problem for her. She got down to a size 16 after one diet but it all crept back on.”
In 2010, Kelly was awarded a forensic science degree at university.
Gareth said: “I was really proud of her. She got a job at the council and she had loads of mates, she was really popular.”
By 2014, Kelly’s weight had hit 30 stone. She was referred for gastric bypass surgery in March 2015.
Gareth said: “The surgery was a big step and it was a worry, but I knew how desperate she was. I just hoped this would help to make her happy.”
Kelly seemed to cope well with the surgery and her weight dropped to just over ten stone.
But her hair fell out, which was a recognised side effect.
Gareth said: “She had a weave done, to cover up her bald patches. When I collected her from the salon she looked so young and beautiful and I told her how much I loved her. I will always remember that moment.”
But following the surgery, Kelly’s character changed.
Gareth said: “After the weight loss, Kelly changed mentally as well as physically. I really felt as though she was two people and I knew she felt the same.
“She would say: ‘I know I should be happy now, but I’m not.’ She was scared of reaching her goal weight because she didn’t want the journey to end.
“Now she had got what she wanted, she didn’t want it. All her life, she had blamed everything on her weight, and now she was thin and she realised her problems were still there.
“Her depression became much worse.”
Kelly also struggled with excess skin left by her weight loss.
Gareth said: “She was very self-conscious about her excess skin and she refused to let me see her naked. She asked for surgery but the GP couldn’t help.”
Eight months ago, Gareth was woken during the night to find Kelly running a bath and carrying an extension lead into the bathroom. She admitted she was planning to kill herself.
‘I was panic stricken…’
He said: “I was panic stricken. I began keeping an eye on her and we asked for a mental health appointment, but there was a two-month wait which was incredibly frustrating.
“I began keeping a close eye on her. But another night, whilst I was sleeping, she slipped out of the house. I had to call the police and they found her, not far away. She admitted she had been planning to jump from a bridge. I was out of my mind with worry.
“Kelly’s parents, Bryan and Doreen, kindly offered to pay for a private consultation and in April she finally saw a consultant. She was prescribed medication and I finally felt a sense of relief. I really felt she was making progress.
“Two days later, there was a TV programme about a Hollywood star’s suicide.
“Kelly made a point of us watching it together. Looking back, I wonder if this was a warning sign. I wonder if it is something I could have picked up on.
“The next night, Jess was staying over with her grandparents. Kelly and I watched a film, and we had a couple of glasses of wine and afterwards, we made love. It was a really special evening.
“Again, looking back, I wonder if she had planned this – knowing what was coming next. I just don’t know.
“Late that night, we lay in bed in each other’s arms, and Kelly said she couldn’t sleep and she wanted to go downstairs. I made her promise to come back to bed in an hour. I didn’t want her up all night, worrying.
“I could hear her downstairs, I thought maybe she was on the phone, and eventually, I drifted off to sleep.”
Gareth woke early the following morning for work, and Kelly’s side of the bed was empty.
‘I felt certain the paramedics would save her…’
He said: “I just thought she had slept downstairs. I went to find her and I saw her, lying on the floor, behind our French doors. But I still thought she was asleep.
“I went over to her and said her name. But, as I touched her leg, it was stone cold and I panicked. I was pleading with her to wake up.
“I grabbed my phone to call an ambulance. I felt certain the paramedics would save her.”
Kelly could not be saved and she was pronounced dead that morning aged just 37.
Gareth said: “I can’t get that out of my head. It’s something I wake up in the night with.
“Telling Jess was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I drove to her grandparents and I broke the news. We sobbed, but she has been incredibly brave since. She and I are helping each other through this.
“I feel guilty, that I couldn’t save Kelly, that I didn’t spot the signs – if there were any. But at the same time, I know I did everything I could.”
Gareth and his family have now set up Kelly’s Legacy, a group dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues and encouraging people to talk about their problems, as well as raising cash for Hanley mental health charity ‘Younger Mind’.
Gareth, and Jess have been out to place personalised notes on bridges around their home, encouraging people who might be thinking of taking their own life to get help.
Last week, Christine, Kelly’s mother-in-law, was joined by friends and family in a sponsored walk of circuits around Westport Lake in Burslem.