Jez: “I lost my brother and parents within 6 months… the Charity’s support was amazing”

Jez Dutfield is supporting our Crisis Line after tragically losing his brother to suicide. Here, he shares his story – and how we supported him amid the most difficult time of his life.

When facing unimaginable tragedy, it can feel incredibly hard to reach out for support – but Jez Dutfield says he found it not only through the people he works alongside, but us too.

Jez provides catering services for Surrey FRS, and says during some of the most challenging months of his life, the people he works with “put their arms around him and took him in” – as well as vitally pointing him towards us for ongoing support.

“About two years ago my brother took his own life,” says Jez, 49. “It was absolutely horrific, really rotten, and it sat with me for a while…

“Then two months later, my mother died, and two weeks after her funeral, my father died.

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“I was then diagnosed with prostate cancer – all of that within about six months. When you tell people, it sounds like some kind of sick joke.”

Jez says he struggled to come to terms with the onslaught of emotions he experienced at the time and started drinking too much as a way of blocking out what had happened.

“There were a couple of times for me that got a lot worse,” he adds. “I was in some pretty dark places, drink became a bad friend of mine, I wasn’t sleeping well, and I actually found myself on the edge of a bridge one day – it got that bad.

“It all made me realise I needed help. I’ve got a very supportive wife and daughter luckily, and they saw I needed that help too.

“During that period, I’d made some incredible friends in Surrey FRS and I felt like they really put their arms around me and took me in.

“I met the Charity’s Community Fundraiser, Louise, during that time so I found out a lot more about the support the Charity offers. Both her and our wellbeing lead, Tess, kept an eye on me and could see I was struggling, and they encouraged me to seek help from the Charity.”

Jez was offered some remote counselling and a lot of follow-up support, which he says was “amazing”.

“I’m doing alright at the moment which is really good,” he adds. “I’ve had the all clear following surgery for the cancer and I’m looking ahead.

“I’m a big believer in talking. If I look at my phone, I’ve got at least 30 numbers I could ring now and know they’d be with me straight away.

“Otherwise, I now know there’s the 24/7 Crisis Line available through The Fire Fighters Charity – it’s there, we need to use it, and I fully support the initiative – talking is key.”

As a way of raising awareness of our support, Jez has planned a fundraiser in April. He, alongside some operational firefighters from Surrey FRS, will be walking from London to Brighton in full fire kit. The firefighters joining him will also be doing the walk wearing breathing apparatus.

“April 13th 2024 would have been my brother’s birthday, so it only seemed fitting that I chose this day to mark his passing and to raise some money for the charity,” says Jez.

“I wanted to do something in his memory, and to give back to the Charity.

“Most people who know me have always thought, ‘Jez is alright, he’s always happy and bouncing around, he’s bullet proof’, but you know what, one good thing I have learnt from all of this rubbish and this horrible experience is that a lot of people who often seem okay and full of life aren’t, it is okay to say, ‘do you know what, I am not okay, can I have a bit of help please’.

“I am not at all embarrassed that I have asked for some support and I hope that if someone reading this is struggling, they can now feel okay to ask for a bit of help.”

Our Community Fundraiser, Louise Furneaux, says: “I’ve been privileged to have got to know Jez over the last few years and his passion for raising awareness and funds for us, after everything he’s experienced, is truly inspiring. Thank you Jez for your dedication, I can’t wait to support you with this fantastic challenge.”

Jez has already raised over £3,000 for us, and hopes to keep adding to that. To support his fundraiser, click here.

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If you feel you’d benefit from our health and wellbeing support, you can call our Support Line on 0800 389 8820, make an enquiry online or visit the ‘Access Support’ tab in My Fire Fighters Charity.

And remember – if you’re feeling suicidal, you can call our Crisis Line 24 hours a day on 0300 373 0896.