I laughed and joked with my happy brother over a pint – the next night he killed himself at just 27


LAUGHING and joking in the pub with his brother Calum, Dan McGurk thought it was any old Sunday evening.

The pair were chatting about family, work and girls over a pint – before starting a new week of work.

Dan lost his brother Calum in June 2016

But, little did Dan know, that would be the very last time he see his brother.

Just one day later, seemingly out of nowhere, Calum took his own life at just 27-years-old.

Dan had lost not only his brother but his “best friend, colleague, drinking buddy and wingman” – and his life has never been the same since.

Heartbroken, Dan, 32, from Jarrow, South Tyneside, is now sharing his brother’s story to raise awareness this Movember – to urge other men to open up about their mental health, to help prevent male suicide.

Cal took his life after a relationship breakdown which led to him selling his house
Dan says he never would have suspected Calum would take his own life as he always had “a smile on his face”

“I’ve known a lot of guys who have struggled and I’ve struggled myself over time but I never ever thought he would be someone that would struggle or take his own life”, Dan said.

“Cal was a good looking lad, he had a nice house, good job and friends – and he always had a smile on his face.

“He was the life and soul of the party really.

“I’ve shared a room with him all my life, we worked together, we drank in the same pub together, we went on holidays together and gigs and girls and everything really.

“We were best friends because there were only two and a bit years between us.

“We were so close so it was a massive hit really.”

Dan describes Calum as “the life of the party”
A family photo of Calum as a baby with his mum Celia

In the weeks leading up to his death, Calum, an air conditioning engineer, broke up with his partner and was forced to move back into his parents’ home.

Dan said: “He had a bad relationship and that broke down which led to him selling his house on a massive loss – which obviously he didn’t want to do.

“He then had to move back into the family home.

Cal was a good looking lad, he had a nice house, good job and friends – and he always had a smile on his face

Dan McGurke

“That was a massive dent to his pride as well, being a grown man moving back home.

“Obviously more and more, in this day and age, people struggle to get mortgages and to get out of parents’ houses.

“And I think there’s still a stigma about being a 20-30-year-old man living at home.

“People still take the mick out of that so obviously that was a massive issue for Cal, and I think it was just a pride thing really.”

They day before Calum took his own life he had been to the pub with his brother
A baby photo of Calum with his brother Dan and two sisters Rebecca and Charlotte

Despite knowing his brother was facing a tough time, Dan said he never once thought Calum would end his own life.

He said his brother never expressed any suicidal thoughts to him, and appeared happy.

“He was the quiet man, quite like a lot of guys are really,” Dan said.

“We’d had conversations about general stuff.

“But I just thought he was too tough, too strong to do that – I just never thought it would be him.

“I always thought I would be the one that would struggle more than him.”

It was a sunny day in June 2016, when the brothers met for a pint in their local pub.

Parting ways, Cal set off for Cheltenham to start a new job the following Monday.

The night before he died Calum messaged Dan about the England football match against Iceland
Dan says he and Calum were extremely close and went on holiday together
Calum shared a room with his brother Dan for most of his life

The brothers carried on messaging one another, chatting as usual – and Dan assumed everything was great.

That Monday the pair were chatting as England were defeated by Iceland in the 2016 Euro Championships, Cal watching the match at his hotel in Cheltenham.

“He’d been watching the England game with the lad he worked with,” Dan said.

“We were having a bit of banter, because Cal’s nickname was Thor – obviously the Iceland supporters were shouting viking-themed chants, so we were just joking about.”

Nothing about their exchange seemed odd to Dan, and gave him no cause for concern.

Little did he know that just hours later Cal would take his own life in his hotel room.

A baby photo of Calum with his dad, Graeme
Dan had to tell his mum Celia (pictured) about Calum’s death

It was Calum’s new colleague who found his lifeless body the next morning.

At that point dad, Graeme, who was Calum’s boss at the time, was en route to the hotel completely unaware of the heartbreaking scene he would find.

Dan said: “As my dad got there, the paramedics were trying to resuscitate him as he came in the room.

“Dad rang my mam because I was asleep after doing a night shift.

“He told her to give the phone to me, he didn’t want to tell mam what had happened.

“He told me to look after my mam and then ring my sisters.”

It will haunt me forever the sound of my mam finding out. There’s no sound like it

Dan McGurk

Dan said the moment his mum found out what had happened to her youngest son, will “haunt” him forever.

“I had to ring the two girls and watch my mam understand that she’s just lost her baby,” he said.

“I had to physically watch that and be there for that.

“It will haunt me forever, the sound of my mam finding out.

“There’s no sound like it. It will haunt me forever the noise of that.”

Calum’s family call themselves “the wolf pack”
Dan is launching his own group in his brother’s memory, called Thor’s Army

Dan then drove his mum Celia, and sisters Rebecca and Charlotte from Newcastle to Cheltenham, so they could say their final goodbyes to Calum.

He said his family have been “crushed” by Cal’s death, but together have found the strength to pull together – calling themselves the “wolf pack”.

Dan added: “It has been hard on everyone that has known him and especially on my dad as he worked with him everyday.

“So that has had a massive long term effect on him and the people that love him.”

To support leading men’s charity, Movember, Dan is speaking out to raise awareness.

He is urging the government to do more to help prevent male suicides – the biggest killer of young men in the UK.

And he is launching his own support group, in his brother’s memory – Thor’s Army – to help other families facing similar, devastating situations.

What is Movember and how do I get involved?

The Movember Foundation charity raises awareness and vital funds for the biggest issues in men’s health: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention.

Every year 10,000 men die of prostate cancer – one an hour – and suicide is the biggest cause of death in men under 50.

The charity says men are facing a health crisis that isn’t talked about, and by 2030 aims to cut the number of men dying prematurely by a quarter.

To get involved first thing you need to do is register.

Once signed up, you can decide whether you’re working alone, or whether you want to team up or join another “pack”.

There are also events to join such as fun runs, quizzes and dodgeball tournaments.

You can even host your own party for you and your mates to compare facial growth.

Dan has grown a moustache inspired by Lemmy from heavy metal band Motörhead this Movember

He said: “I just want more men to feel like they can talk stuff out.

“I think I am one of a few men who is able to do tha.

“I think I would have ended up in a really bad place as well but I’m quite comfortable talking about that stuff but I know a lot of guys aren’t.

“There’s always that misconception that people are too strong or too tough – and I think that’s one of the issues as men we need to sort out.

“Particularly in men in jobs like us in trades or contracting and working away – it has the highest suicide rate out of any industry.

“It’s really down to society and the government really to step up the funding and the support.

“Massive funding needs to be put into suicide as it’s the biggest killer of men under 45 and nobody really talks about.

“No one can ever really believe the figures or stats on that – a man kills himself less than every two hours.”

Dan is so passionate about the cause he is now considering helping a suicide intervention team run by a local charity.

Dan has taken part in several charity events with friends in memory of his brother
Following his brother’s death, Dan is urging the government to do more about male suicide
A family photo of Dan and Calum together when they were kids

He has also worked closely for the charity Campaign Against Living Miserably and did a skydive recently in his brother’s memory for Mind.

This month for Movember, Dan has grown a moustache to raise awareness for suicide in men – inspired by Lemmy from heavy metal band Motörhead.

He added: “Suicide is a massive epidemic in men – men don’t have to be tough.

“We need to be encourage to talk and cry and everyone needs to encourage that.”

You can donate to Dan’s Movember cause here. 


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