Dad highlights Archie's fight against depression following tabloid trivialisation of his death
Tabloid headlines trivialised the death of former Bishop’s Stortford schoolboy Archie Day.
As they came to terms with the loss of the “loving and kind-hearted” 20-year-old, his family’s grief was compounded by national press coverage which suggested the loss of his iPhone – rather than his ongoing mental health struggles – was the cause of the tragedy.
Archie's father Ken is determined to set the record straight and shine a spotlight on mental health.
Archie, who attended Hatfield Heath Community Primary School and The Bishop’s Stortford High School before completing his A Levels at the Herts and Essex High School, was found dead in his flat in halls at the University of Salford.
He was less than a month into a broadcast journalism degree after winning praise for his work as a YouTube video blogger.
Ken, a personal trainer, was blunt about how his son’s death was portrayed: “Like some snowflake millennial who killed himself because he lost his iPhone!
"It was heartbreaking and a massive setback to our recovery. It’s a terrible shame, because with a little consideration and thought this story could have been incredibly helpful to so many others struggling with anxiety and depression."
Archie had been on a night out with pals, enjoying an Arctic Monkeys-themed club night, on October 5 last year. He became separated from his friends and by the time a distressed Archie got back to his halls his mobile was gone. He was comforted by his mates, but when a member of staff checked on him the next day his body was discovered.
At his inquest on January 18, Bolton coroner Rachel Galloway reflected the complexity of the case and doubts about Archie’s intentions by recording a narrative conclusion.
She said: “I accept he was extremely upset about losing his phone. The blood alcohol level was high and, in my view, that could have played a role in his decision. I have to consider the level of alcohol; how upset he was and that he wasn't thinking rationally at the time.”
Nevertheless, the Daily Mail’s headline was typical of the coverage which followed: "Student vlogger hanged himself after 'sobbing uncontrollably' at losing his iPhone". The Sun said: "iPhone AGONY: Instagram vlogger, 20, hanged himself after 'sobbing uncontrollably' after losing iPhone at Arctic Monkeys party."
Ken pulled no punches: “They wanted to generate a reaction and sales by making fun of a poor young man who killed himself at university after three weeks with a misleading and inaccurate headline. Some of the comments left by trolls online were beyond belief and caused the family a great deal of distress.”
In fact, Ken believes that despite his “larger-than-life” persona and assurances that he was having a great time at university, where he quickly became popular as a “funny, happy guy”, Archie was also anxious and stressed by the massive step he had taken moving from Sawbridgeworth to Manchester.
These issues were compounded by the drinking typical of freshers across the country enjoying their first taste of freedom away from home.
Ken believed these factors had stopped Archie thinking rationally on the night he died and that the only real relevance of the loss of his mobile was that it robbed him of the chance to call his family at a time when he was vulnerable and could have been comforted and reassured.
Ken confronted the media head-on in protest. After he had explained how damaging the stories were, some headlines were changed.
He wants his son’s death to be part of a wider debate about mental health and toxic masculinity. Far from a technology-obsessed millennial, Archie was taking medication after suffering from depression and anxiety for several years.
Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK – 84 take their own lives every week – yet the subject is shrouded in secrecy and misplaced shame.
A long-term advocate for charities like Mind, Ken said that he was speaking out to give hope to others, to combat the stigma which surrounds mental health and to urge anyone struggling as Archie had to seek support. He has already spoken with many national media outlets to spread his message and is a member of several online support groups.
As part of his work, Ken is also focusing on the benefits of exercise to those suffering from mental health issues.
He said: “Raising awareness is something I’m really keen to do. I want something positive to come out of such a tragedy.”