Talking bench created at Higham Recreation Ground in memory of Thamesview School pupil Tristan Taylor who died from suicide

A group of mums united in grief have come together at the unveiling of a “talking bench” in memory of a 15-year-old who took their own life.

Tristan Taylor, from Gravesend, died in May 2023 but his parents said he did not indicate the depths of his feelings in the days before his death.

From left: Arshan Gulati, Gemma Cayley-Smith and Kerry Holmes have all lost their sons to suicide in the past four years. Picture: Peter Scutts
From left: Arshan Gulati, Gemma Cayley-Smith and Kerry Holmes have all lost their sons to suicide in the past four years. Picture: Peter Scutts

Now, in the hope of encouraging young people to talk more openly about their mental health, his mum Gemma Cayley-Smith has created Tristan’s Talking Bench, in Higham Recreational Ground.

Speaking after the unveiling, she said: “It tells you the harsh reality that real people are affected by mental health and take their own lives because there is not enough support out there.

“There needs to be more support for mental health particularly with young people.

“Do we want to be in a world where we accept only a percentage of children make it out of school? That is the way that the world is going.

“It should never be that way. There do not need to be any more memorial benches.”

Gemma believes if the bench saves one life, it will have “served its purpose”.

“I think for us in particular we were not aware how much Tristan was struggling,” she added. “Talking makes such a difference.

“With social media, I think people believe if they post online, that is them talking and sharing but it is not.

“Nothing is helping them manage it or cope. I think that is where counselling, talking and understanding methods you can use to help yourself cope is so important.”

Painted in Tristain’s favourite colour purple with angel wings and music notes, it also includes contact details for support services for those in need.

Deputy Mayor of Gravesham Cllr Jenny Wallace, Tristan’s mum Gemma Cayley-Smith, stepfather Shayne McCosh, and father Gavin Taylor unveiled the bench. Picture: Peter Scutts
Deputy Mayor of Gravesham Cllr Jenny Wallace, Tristan’s mum Gemma Cayley-Smith, stepfather Shayne McCosh, and father Gavin Taylor unveiled the bench. Picture: Peter Scutts

It was unveiled last week by Gemma and Tristan’s stepfather Shayne McCosh and father Gavin Taylor.

They were joined by Kerry Holmes, who lost her son Elliott Holmes in June 2020, and Arshan Gulati, whose son Ekam Sadana died in 2022, both from suicide.

For confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time or click here to visit the website.

If you want to talk to someone confidentially, click here.

From left: Arshan Gulati, Gemma Cayley-Smith, Kerry Holmes and Deputy Mayor of Gravesham Cllr Jenny Wallace. Picture: Peter Scutts
From left: Arshan Gulati, Gemma Cayley-Smith, Kerry Holmes and Deputy Mayor of Gravesham Cllr Jenny Wallace. Picture: Peter Scutts

Gemma is now taking on the Three Peaks Challenge later this week to raise money for The Elliott Holmes Memorial Fund which has supported her family.

The organisation aims to provide funding for one-to-one private talking therapy for vulnerable young people aged between 13 and 18 living in Gravesham.

Gemma added: “We have just passed Tristan’s first anniversary and in the first few weeks Peter and Kerry, Elliott's mum and stepdad, reached out to us to say you are not alone.

“I think that made the biggest difference. They came to Tristan’s wake and they have become friends of ours ever since.

Gemma said they did not know her son Tristan was struggling and she wants more teens to open up and talk. Picture: Gemma Cayley-Smith
Gemma said they did not know her son Tristan was struggling and she wants more teens to open up and talk. Picture: Gemma Cayley-Smith

“Nobody wants to be a part of the group that we are part of but what they have done out of their loss, I think it is inspiring.

“This is a massive challenge for me but I will do anything I can, even if it is only helping to provide support for one young person.

“I think that is so important. It is finding purpose in what we have been through as a family.”

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