‘Help is out there’ – Mum’s plea after ‘kind-hearted’ son took his own life

A devastated mother has pleaded with those in the Traveller community to reach out and speak to someone if they are experiencing troubling thoughts.

Donna Bettle wants people to know help is out there after she tragically lost her son, Jimmy, 24, who “always thought of others above himself”, in January last year.

During an inquest today, June 9, it was heard that Jimmy Smith, a popular man from the Traveller community in Cambridgeshire, took his own life.

Jimmy from Willingham, South Cambridgeshire was found dead in the village on January 20, 2020.

The inquest into Mr Smith’s death at Huntingdon Town Hall today (June 9) heard that he made “a spur-of-the-moment decision” to take his own life that day, having struggled with significant episodes of mental ill-health.

Jimmy Smith with his daughter Dolcie, now 4, who Ms Bettle said is "the image of him".
Jimmy Smith with his daughter Dolcie, now 4, who Ms Bettle said is “the image of him”.
(Image: Donna Bettle)

“Jimmy was unlikely to seek help for himself,” coroner Elizabeth Gray said, noting that throughout his medical history of severe depression, drug abuse and drug-induced psychosis, it was his partner at the time who sought help.

His mother, Donna Bettle, has spoken movingly about her son, “a Traveller boy”, who will always exceed the circumstances of his death.

“He was such a giving person,” she said.

“He was stubborn, headstrong, he liked to laugh, to torment me, he was always doing things like that – but he’s missed, with every beat of our broken hearts he is honestly missed every second of the day and I just can’t believe it”, Donna added.

Jimmy is the second eldest of four sons, and he leaves behind a four-year-old daughter of his own, Dolcie, who he named.

“She’s a lovely little girl,” Ms Bettle said, “she says ‘my Daddy is a star, my Daddy is the brightest star that twinkles,’ so that’s how she knows it’s him.”

Jimmy Michael John Smith, born in Bedford in 1997, lived in Willingham and worked as a labourer.

“His aim was to own his own business because he loved it,” Ms Bettle said, “I don’t know why but he did – he liked to come home dirty I think.

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“He would shout ‘Mum, I’m just going to get in the shower’ and there would be a trail of plaster through the bathroom. You could definitely tell it was him.”

Fishing was a favourite pastime: Jimmy often spent hours at the fishing lakes in Over with Dolcie, or at other times camped overnight with his mates.

“He had a lot of friends and they all came to the funeral and they all showed their respects, and none of them had a clue. Not any of them either. I think they hide it, they hide it so well,” she said.

Returning her findings at the inquest today, Ms Gray noted that he had made two previous attempts on his life in recent years, “though it is not clear whether those attempts to take his own life would have been followed through.”

She said that he was a regular cocaine and cannabis user, which had lowered his mood, while an unsettled relationship with his partner was also a source of sadness.

“Jimmy was very clear he wanted a happy stable family life, and struggled achieving that, and that saddened him,” Ms Gray said.

In conclusion, she said, “it is really clear to me that he was a very much-loved young man.”

Jimmy was "a very calm, chilled out person" his Mum said.
Jimmy was “a very calm, chilled out person” his Mum said.
(Image: Donna Bettle)

Speaking to Cambridgeshire Live a few weeks ago, Jimmy’s mother located his reluctance to seek support for his mental ill-health as a particular problem within the Traveller community.

“I’m just hoping that if people know that he was a Traveller – that’s what he was, a Traveller boy – if they know that there is help out there, because we’re so shut off, then it might make a difference.”

She highlighted the service of One Call Away, a confidential phone line run by siblings Mark and Caroline, who support those from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community on depression, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, self-harm and anxiety.

The duo is helping to ease “stigma” within the community, Ms Bettle said, especially regarding young men, and might have offered a relatable lifeline to Jimmy.

One Call Away have a Facebook page here and can be contacted on the numbers below.

Reach out if you’re struggling

Anyone from the GRT community can call Mark for free 24/7 on 07393561735 and Caroline on 07748997617

The Samaritans can also be reached free 24/7 on 116 123

Lifeline is a free Cambridge Mental Health Helpline 7pm-11pm 0808 808 21 21

MIND Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have a range of services to support mental health. You can find out more here .

A GP statement read at the inquest disclosed he had not been in contact with his surgery in the twelve months before his death.

“He would not have spoken to a doctor,” Ms Bettle added, “he would not have walked into a doctor’s and said ‘I need help.’

“But he may have texted this mobile number knowing that they’re the same language as him so to speak, and he may have got the help.

“So it’s just letting the boys and girls know there is help there for us.”

She added: “If a young Traveller boy reads this and thinks there’s someone I can speak to, maybe it will save a life.”

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