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Stratford sportsman Zak never knew how much he was loved

Zak McMorran with his brother Kieran and sister Beth (45031270)
Zak McMorran with his brother Kieran and sister Beth (45031270)

The brother of a talented Stratford sportsman who died last year has urged those who are going through difficult times to reach out and talk to someone.

Zak McMorran, whose brother Kieran described him as the “most naturally gifted sportsman” he had ever met, died on 28th October. An inquest into his death last week recorded a conclusion of suicide.

At the time if his death, the Herald received numerous tributes to 19-year-old Zak, and since then, friends and family have worked hard to highlight the issue of mental health, particularly among young sports people.

Kieran and friends of Zak united in November to raise an incredible £54,000 for Movember, the second largest amount raised by any appeal in the country.

Later in December, Kieran also participated in a special half-marathon challenge around Stratford in aid of Sporting Minds UK, while sister Beth took part in the Sport in Mind Red January event in which fundraisers do at least one form of exercise every day of the month.

Kieran said: “What gets me is I go to Zak’s graveside and there’s always a fresh set of flowers there. I don’t think he knew how loved he was. I know people go to chat with him too.

“Zak was watching a TV series with one of his friends and they go to his grave to tell him what’s happened in the new series. It’s really nice that people are doing that.

“I just think when you’re in the darkest place it is very difficult to see straight. To people who are going through tough times, I would just urge them to speak first to friends and family if they can. You might feel that something is overwhelming, but you’d be surprised at how understanding and supportive people are.

“If you’re not able to talk to friends and family, there are plenty of organisations that can help – people like the Samaritans and other charities.

“In January my sister took part in Sport in Mind Red January in memory of Zak. Not only does sport and exercise release endorphins, it also helps your mental health to get out and about. During the last year I think it’s easy to feel like you’re in a bit of a prison, trapped inside the same four walls.

“I definitely think the last year has been difficult for sports people and their mental health. You might miss the support of a team, you’ve suddenly gone from training twice a week to zero, and there can be limited space for sport in parks at the moment.

“Since Zak died I’ve taken part in events to raise awareness of mental health and the support from friends has been heartwarming. The Movember fundraising evolved into a huge team activity and the money that was raised was amazing.

“There was also the half-marathon fundraiser in aid of Sporting Minds UK, which took me aback really because half of my friends who took part never usually run.

“Awareness of mental health issues has grown in recent years. It’s probably something that female groups discuss more, but you see more organisations advertised now who can help – people are more aware of who they can reach out to, which has got to be a positive.”

Samaritans UK is a charity with listeners available to talk about whatever’s bothering you without judging or telling you what to do. To get support, contact them on 116 123.

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