The parents of an Elgin 13-year-old who took his own life last month have encouraged families to take the time to discuss their feelings to prevent other tragedies.
Philip Polese, who attended Elgin High School, died a few days after medics rushed the S2 student to hospital in Edinburgh but were not able to revive him.
His parents Eddie and Kay have since been haunted by unanswered questions about why Philip took the decision – but suspect bullying at school played a part.
The couple have described their only child as a happy and enthusiastic youngster who threw himself into a range of activities with Elgin Youth Cafe while obtaining a black-belt from the Kaizen kickboxing club in the town.
About 200 friends lined the streets near the family’s home for the funeral with many of the youngster’s former classmates joining to pay their respects.
Mr and Mrs Polese will never know for sure what drove Philip to end his life, but hope to prevent further tragedies.
Mr Polese said: “Parents need to listen to their kids, just taking note of what they’re saying and how they’re acting.
“It might just be little things like how they’re standing or sitting. If we can make a difference to just one family they it will be worth it.
“We didn’t see it coming. He was well-loved at home, he had lots of friends, he used to love coming out on long walks with me. He doted on our dog Bengy.
“The last words he said to his mum were ‘Can I put pyjamas on?’ and we now know he then messaged his aunt about pizza toppings.”
Since last summer Philip had regularly attended Elgin Youth Cafe, throwing himself into the range of activities the group runs for local youngsters.
Just a few months ago he helped produce and star in a comedy film about time travellers attempting to avoid the coronavirus pandemic.
And he was a regular at the charity’s “eat, chat, chill” sessions while online cooking classes and scavenger hunts had helped him stay active and connected with friends during lockdown.
Mr and Mrs Polese believe similar groups can play a vital role in encouraging children out of their shell.
Mr Polese said: “Philip just wanted to be liked, and he was liked there, he did things with other kids whatever it was, and he always wanted to go back.
“I remember standing in a queue with him waiting to get inside and there was a girl there and they were enthusiastically pleased to see each other.
“I think the reason he liked it so much was because the kids weren’t nasty to him – they were on his wavelength and his level. All the staff are fantastic with them too.”
During the coronavirus lockdown Elgin Youth Cafe has kept youngsters connected by running a series of online events including cooking classes.
Staff from the group dropped off boxes of ingredients for children to cook along at home.
Mr Polese said: “They never asked for any money, none of it was means-tested, they just came and dropped them off.
“When they were in the cafe itself they also got a proper evening meal, it was all incredible really.”
Mrs Polese said: “When he was doing the cooking I could see his friends online also enjoying making a mess in their kitchen.
“Even when he was doing the scavenger hunt they were all laughing and joking as they rushed around the house collecting things.
“He loved it, I don’t think he would have done half the things he did without them, they do such a good job to encourage all the kids to overcome their shyness.”
If you are struggling and want to talk, Breathing Space is a free, confidential service that can be contacted on 0800 838 587.
Samaritans also offers a free and confidential emotional support service that never closes and can be reached on 116 123 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org