"St Wilfrid's saved my life" - Sheffield healthcare firm boss says after wife's death leads to mental health battle

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Graham Moore says he owes his life to a cookery course.

When the 76-year-old chairman of Sheffield healthcare firm Westfield Health lost his wife Brenda 11 years ago, he freely admits he became depressed.

After spending so much time looking after his partner of 43 years in the final stages of their lives together, he was suddenly left alone - and lonely.

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When Brenda’s time finally came, Graham slept his first night as a widower in his grandson’s bed at his daughter’s house.

Graham Moore on the staff roof terrace at Westfield HealthGraham Moore on the staff roof terrace at Westfield Health
Graham Moore on the staff roof terrace at Westfield Health

“I thought the best thing that could happen is for me to not wake up in the morning,” he says.

“I was thinking about the most efficient ways of bringing things to an end.

“I think it was a mental health problem. Everyone has their ups and downs but when you are in a post-bereavement situation there is all this loneliness.

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People asked you how you are but they don’t really want to know. You can’t really say, ‘well, I’m suicidal’.”

Gary Speed. Photo - Anna Gowthorpe/PA WireGary Speed. Photo - Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire
Gary Speed. Photo - Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

After feeling useless because he couldn’t stop the cervical cancer that was slowly killing his wife, Graham says he felt equally useless after her passing.

“Near the end, I suddenly started thinking about how I would cope afterwards,” he says.

“I had a year to prepare but it still came as a shock. I always assumed that most men die before women and I would leave her behind.

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“I suppose I was a very stereotypical man - Brenda would do all the household things and I did my job.”

Graham Moore of Westfield HealthGraham Moore of Westfield Health
Graham Moore of Westfield Health

“I never really did anything around the house and I suddenly thought, ‘you need to fend for yourself now Graham’.”

Thankfully, through his extensive contacts in Sheffield, Graham heard about a cookery course at St Wilfrid’s Centre on Queen’s Road.

There he not only learned how to cook basic meals, but was also inspired by the people he met, and found strength in their resilience.

“To admit I needed help was a big thing,” he says.

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“But the class had some incredible people on it - people who didn’t know where they were going to be sleeping that night as well as people with mental health problems and learning difficulties.

“As well as teaching me how to cook I started to realise how lucky I was.

“I would say St Wilfrid’s saved my life.”

So impressed was he by the help he received at St Wilfrid’s, Graham and Westfield Health later sponsored a cookery book which was sold in aid of the centre.

Tragically, last year Graham also lost Barbara - a woman he met after Brenda died - also to cancer.

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But the experience of losing Brenda helped him cope with the double bereavement, he says.

And his lifetime of work with people who are confronting serious illnesses has also helped him come to terms with life, death, grief and mortality.

But no matter your background, Graham - who is also a vice president at Sheffield United - says mental illness is something that can affect anyone.

He points to the example of former Sheffield United star Gary Speed, who took his own life in 2011, despite a successful career in sport and broadcasting, a loving family and a wide circle of friends.

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Sheffield United historian John Garrett wrote movingly about Speed in these pages last week, inspiring Graham to contact The Star to open up on his own struggles.

“Every one of us can struggle to cope when the mental fuses are overloaded,” says Graham.

“You can be the Queen of England or you can be someone who works in a brickyard but at the end of the day we are all vulnerable human beings.

“People in the depths of depression sometimes don’t find it easy to talk to family, so we need to create spaces where they can do that.

“It is about encouraging people to open up and show that vulnerability - to say I am scared and I am not looking forward to the future.”

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