THE DAUGHTER of a well-known Shetland biker who died of heart failure last year is putting his beloved motorbike up for raffle to raise funds for the Mind Your Head charity.
Richelle Fraser said that although it was a physical ailment that killed her father Stewart, the root of the problem was his life-long drinking.
And she believes that it was witnessing a family member die when Stewart was just 16 that started his problem relationship with alcohol. In those days men were not to talk about their problems – with the consequence that drinking proved an outlet instead.
Richelle said: “In August last year I lost my dad. He died all of sudden from a heart problem. But the reality of the situation is that that heart problem came more from his head. All my life, and before my entry to the world, my dad was a heavy drinker. ‘And too right’, I sometimes think.
“My dad came from a time when problems were not shared to be halved. You had to be tough, brave and ironically, resilient, whilst being told boys don’t cry.”
According to Richelle, when her father was being brought up, the medical advice was: “Don’t talk to him about the situation, it’ll only re-traumatise him,” and, “if he needs a nightcap to fall asleep… provide it”.
“So at the tender age of 16 my father was taught to bottle emotions, and to try to mask them with alcohol,” she adds.
“The sad truth is my dad’s story, as unique to him as his life path was, in actual fact mimics so many males of his age, and frankly, many males who are still constrained by society.
“We all know in Shetland culture, like a lot of Scottish culture, alcoholism is a major problem. As individual as these issues are, we need to face up to the fact that the numbers prove that this problem is a mental health and a societal issue.
“Males still feel uneasy talking about their emotions, and still feel a bottle is a better friend. Emotions are hard and confusing. I guess growing up so close to addiction showed me that it’s actually sometimes an easier road to take.
“We have all had times when emotions have felt overwhelming, why not take something that numbs you, or just eases things for a little while? But the irony of this, as I’ve seen first hand, is that the bottle, and not talking about things, only leads to more demons.
“The length of time that my dad had lived with his demons, and the social constraints of not talking and hitting the bottle instead, meant he was too far-gone. By the time he met my mum and I came onto the scene, nothing could ever save him. I’ve had many conversations with my mum, about how different things could have been, if my dad had been born in my generation.
“My mum and me tried numerous times with my dad, but always felt there weren’t the right services or places to go. As a family we were left to self-defend. It was not easy. I always admired how my dad would have an open door to anyone, and was willing to listen to them, more than likely over a bottle. As hard as my dad’s heart was, others could always find comfort in his company. As open as he was to listening to others’ issues, I wonder how often he opened up about his. I know in the few times he did open up, this came from intoxication.
“The beautiful thing about today, and the area I have been brought up in, is that there is help, and services such as Mind Your Head are there to help people like my dad.
“Since this charity came to light, I have loved how they have focused on addressing the issues of masculinity and mental health in our culture. I hope by doing this, they can help save others out there, before the demons become too much. I always have looked towards these demons like your shadow. The more you hold on to your emotions and bottle them away, the bigger the shadow will over-shadow you.
“The few times my dad would stay sober for me was usually when he would take me out on his bike. I look at my dad’s bike and see the only freedom my father found in his life. The last time I saw dad, was him standing beside this bike. I have oddly always looked at his bike like a symbol of a brother I never had. When I inherited the bike, and saw the bike for the first time after he died, it was actually the first time I realised I’ll never see my dad again.
“I can’t ride motorbikes, heck I’m nearly 30 and still haven’t gone for my car driving licence. But I couldn’t sell this bike. My dad was one of four guys who had attended every mid-summer rally there has been. My dad got so much enjoyment out of this event, and he is well known for his antics and what he brought to it.
“While having a talk with friends about what I should do with the bike, one suggested having a raffle with the bike as the main prize and put the money into a cause you feel would be suiting for the memory of your dad. And I guess that’s why we are here today.”
Richelle said that the response from the Shetland community had been overwhelmingly touching. “In buying a ticket I feel people are pulling together, and are putting back into our community. Thank you.”
Mind Your Head service manager Anouska Civico said: “To offer to raffle something that is so personal to her Dad and her family in recognition of the work we do is so generous.
“When I read Richelle’s story about her dad it certainly resonated with me and it will with many people, so as well as raising money for the charity it will help raise awareness of other people’s struggles and perhaps will encourage people to seek help if they need it.”
Should you wish to buy or sell raffle tickets on behalf of Richelle then contact Anouska on 01595 745035. The draw will take place on Saturday 23 June at the Simmer Dim Motorcycle Rally.