Tragedy of the ‘gentle giant’ who never discussed his experiences of war

A much-loved former soldier who struggled with civilian life and didn’t speak of his experiences in the Army took his own life after a mental health illness, an inquest heard.

The body of Robert McCormack was found at a secluded woodland area of Reddish Vale Country Park, Stockport, on November 9 last year, two days after his family reported him missing.

A pathologist gave a cause of death as hanging after a post-mortem examination.

Mr McCormack’s family and health workers involved in his care said his mental health had greatly improved before his death.

Dr Jonathan Marks, a consultant psychiatrist, said he believed the 36-year-old had ‘turned a corner and was doing well’, and Mr McCormack was said to have been discussing future plans.

So his death, they said, came as a huge shock.

Mr McCormack, who had a daughter, served with the Mercian Regiment of the British Army for a decade from the age of 20.

He completed a tour of duty in Iraq but a close friend was killed in Afghanistan, Stockport Coroners’ Court heard.

His brother, Christopher McCormack, said in a statement he didn’t discuss his military service and when he left the Army aged 30, struggled to adapt to civilian life.

Mr McCormack served his country for a decade
(Image: Handout)

“He did not see his military friends much after because he did not want them to judge him for leaving,” he said.

Mr McCormack, who was living in Heaton Norris, Stockport, also took the death of his father hard and missed him terribly, the inquest heard.

“He was outgoing and used to love going fishing,” his brother added.

“He used to have a jet-ski and used it on holidays. He had the gift of the gab and his death was an awful time.”

Mr McCormack had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder in 2012 and made three previous suicide attempts, his GP said.

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In February 2020, he was admitted to a hospital’s mental health unit.

Dr Marks said he suffered from psychosis and was diagnosed with bi-polar affective disorder, for which he was prescribed medication.

After his discharge, he was referred to a community mental heath team and there were weekly visits, the inquest heard.

Alice Crawford, his mental health care co-coordinator, said Mr McCormack was keen to get better and was ‘willing to try anything to aid his recovery’.

A coroner has recorded a verdict of suicide
(Image: UCG/Family)

Days before his death, on November 2, they met in a park.

Ms Crawford described him as ‘significantly better’ than the last two occasions she had seen him.

He spoke of wanting to go fishing and getting back in the gym, and she said they discussed plans for the future and continuing treatment. Mr McCormack, the inquest heard, had received support from veterans services before, but felt that he didn’t want to again.

His death was not treated by police as suspicious.

The court heard his body was found after searches had been organised

Coroner Christopher Morris said: “He has been described in court as a cheerful, happy-go-lucky sort of person.

“He was a veteran who served the country for the British Army for a decade and served in Iraq.

“One can only imagine some of the horrors he must have witnessed there. He was somewhat of a closed book in terms of sharing those experiences with his family.”

Mr Morris said Mr McCormack received an ‘extensive’ amount of mental health support and ‘engaged and embraced it’.

“He said he was keen to get better and did whatever it took,” he said.

“What is a deep tragedy is that we have been left with no clues as to why Mr McCormack has done this at a time when he appeared to be doing well.”

Helplines and websites

Samaritans (116 123) samaritans.org operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org , write to Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, STIRLING, FK8 2SA and visit www.samaritans.org/branches to find your nearest branch.

For support for people feeling suicidal, if you are concerned about someone or if you are bereaved by suicide see http://shiningalightonsuicide.org.uk

CALM (0800 58 58 58) thecalmzone.net has a helpline is for men who are down or have hit a wall for any reason, who need to talk or find information and support. They’re open 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year.

Greater Manchester Bereavement Service Greater Manchester Bereavement Service can help to find support for anyone in Greater Manchester that has been bereaved or affected by a death. No one needs to feel alone as they deal with their grief. www.greater-manchester-bereavement-service.org.uk

Childline (0800 1111 ) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.

PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.

Beat Eating Disorders: Beat provides helplines for adults and young people offering support and information about eating disorders. These helplines are free to call from all phones. Adult Helpline: 0808 801 0677, Studentline: 0808 801 0811, Youthline: 0808 801 0711. www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk

Anorexia & Bulimia Care: ABC provide on-going care, emotional support and practical guidance for anyone affected by eating disorders, those struggling personally and parents, families and friends. Helpline: 03000 11 12 13. www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/

Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts. Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying studentsagainstdepression.org

For information and links to charities and organisations that can help with substance abuse, visit https://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/drugs/

The coroner recorded a conclusion of suicide.

After his death, his family paid tribute to a ‘gentle giant’.

“He would do anything for anybody,” his sister Claire McCormack said. “We don’t know what happened and I don’t think we ever will – the only person who can answer that is Rob.”

MEN – Stockport