A FAMILY who lost their 19-year-old son to suicide are speaking out to raise awareness of the hidden stresses faced by many young people.

Matt McElhone, of Lowry Hill, Carlisle, took his own life in October last year.

His parents, Catherine and John Tate, said it came as a shock to everyone, including his younger brother Jack, now 11.

They said Matt had everything to live for. He was doing well at university, had lots of friends and was generally enjoying life.

But under the surface he was hiding some personal problems that eventually became too much for him.

The family want to raise awareness of suicide, and encourage others to talk more openly about their mental health.

John and best friend Geoff Bowes have also raised almost £4,500 in memory of Matt by cycling more than 170 miles.

The money from the coast-to-coast cycle will go to charity Mind, which supports people in the Carlisle area who are struggling with mental health problems and works to raise awareness of suicide.

A former Trinity School pupil, Matt had just started the second year of his international business studies degree at Northumbria University.

"He was an absolutely lovely boy... funny, quirky," said his mum.

"He didn't want to go to uni at first, but he did really well in his AS levels and changed his mind. He went to Northumbria and really loved it. He made lots of friends and enjoyed student life.

"He was working hard and looking forward to going to work abroad as part of his course. He was going to Sweden.

"He was always in touch though and came home a lot to see his little brother. There is eight years between them but they were as thick as thieves. They loved each other."

Mrs Tate, of Gelt Close, said he still had lots of friends in Carlisle, both from school and his time working at TK Maxx.

"He was really happy. He was fit, healthy and had a lot of friends. A lot of people he worked with at TK Maxx have said how much he helped them, and how they loved being on shift with him," she added.

"All of his friends thought he was happy. You know what teenagers are like, but we thought we were doing quite well. He did actually talk to us. We always said we'd support him, he knew that."

But unbeknown to them, Matt was struggling with some personal problems. They have since found out that he'd been to his GP, who referred him to mental health services, but he was later discharged.

For some reason, on October 18, he decided to take his own life.

Mrs Tate, who is still waiting for the inquest into his death, had seen him that morning and said he'd seemed fine. He was due to head back to Newcastle for his university lectures, but never turned up.

"That morning we were talking about the weekend. I said I loved him and gave him a cuddle. He kissed his brother goodbye," she said.

Mrs Tate was not initially worried when she didn't hear from him, as he'd often meet up with friends after his lectures.

But when nobody had seen him, his friends also grew concerned and the police were alerted. They searched his Newcastle flat, but found nothing.

Mrs Tate said at this point they were relieved, thinking he must be out late with friends.

But in the early hours of the next morning the police went to conduct a routine search of his parents home.

They found Matt's body in the garage.

Mrs Tate said they hadn't thought to look because they were sure he was in Newcastle.

The entire family, including Matt's older siblings - Ryan, 29, Rachael, 28 and Hayley, 26 - were left devastated.

Mr Tate said they hope his story will raise awareness.

They are encouraging people to talk more openly with friends and family about their mental health, and not feel like it's a weakness.

"There's been a lot of stuff in the media about looking for signs, but there isn't always a sign," he said.

"It's a bit of a taboo subject, especially for men. You are supposed to just suck it up and get on with it, but life isn't like that.

"There is a stereotype of someone who is mentally ill, but it's not like that.

"A lot of people suffer from anxiety or depression.

"You don't always know it, but once you start talking to people you realise how common it is. We need to be encouraging people to talk, especially young people.

"If us speaking out helps one person, it will be worth it."

Since Matt's death, the family have taken comfort from the comments they have heard about him from friends and colleagues.

"You know your own child, but I didn't realise until he died how much everyone else thought of him. Nobody has had a bad word to say about him," said Mrs Tate.

"At his funeral there were so many people. It was standing room only."

At his funeral - where everyone wore odd socks in tribute to Matt, who never had a matching pair - the family raised £800 for Mind, and have now raised a further £4,407 from the bike ride.

The coast-to-coast cycle is an annual charity event organised by Kingmoor school, where Jack is a pupil, and Belle Vue school.

Most of the riders were raising money for the Eden Valley Hospice, however John and Geoff did it for Mind, in memory of Matt.

The best friends have known each other for years and now work together at Pirelli.

Neither was an avid cyclist, but they started training together in preparation for the mammoth challenge.

The cyclists set off from Morecambe and covered 170 miles, over the huge hills of the Yorkshire Dales, to reach Bridlington in three days.

It took place over the may bank holiday weekend and despite hot weather making conditions extra difficult, they all completed it.

Mr Tate said they have had fantastic support from colleagues at Pirelli, who helped them reach such a high total.

He thanked organiser David Longworth, Geoff and the other cyclists, and everyone who has donated to Mind.

*If you are struggling with mental health problems call MindLine Cumbria on 0300 561 0000 or the Samaritans on 116 123.