Joel (Joe) was my stepson. I met him in 2007 when he was 10 years old. He recited every Little Britain sketch to me during that first meeting and I was won over.
Joe was incredibly clever, a cunning prankster, argumentative, funny and kind. He loved to cook, worked hard and had the most brilliant laugh. He played the flute and the piano to Grade 8 and always had some random fact about the universe to share with you.
He was studying Physics at Exeter University and completed two years of his degree before he died. Exeter have awarded him a Certificate of Higher Education in Physics to recognise his achievements, and it now hangs proudly in his room.
Since Joe died, we have discovered that he had been suffering with depression for a number of years but wanted no-one to know. He hid his illness from me, his dad, his brother and sister, and his closest friends.
To now know that he was in so much pain for so long is incredibly hard to bear and is why we will be campaigning for better mental health awareness and understanding, particularly in schools and universities.
We missed the signs – no matter how well hidden they were – and we don’t want another family to miss them too.
We miss Joe every day and our lives are forever changed.
Shine bright beautiful boy, we love you xx