THE best friend of late radio star Stephen Clements has vowed to use his memory to help those struggling with mental health issues.
Larry Goodey, the BBC presenter’s close pal of 30 years, said he hoped Stephen’s legacy would be giving a voice to those who “feel they have nowhere to go”.
In a powerful interview just days after the broadcaster’s brother Gavin revealed the much-loved Radio Ulster host took his own life, Larry (44) said: “It’s quite scary how many people out there are potentially struggling”.
Speaking for the first time, the dad-of-two told the Sunday World he is still in shock that the man who made him laugh almost everyday, is no longer here.
“What’s become obvious to me is, there are no telltale signs,” he said in an exclusive interview. “I was with Stephen a lot, and talked to him a lot.
“And I know he was struggling in certain aspects of his life, there were certain things that just weren’t right.
“But that aside, his career was flying and he just had so much to live for.
“It just came out of the blue and it was a shocker. I find myself now speaking to people that I haven’t met, on social media, just to encourage them to keep strong.
“People reach out to Gavin, to myself and to Cate (Conway), because we are as active as we are.
“And it’s quite scary how many people out there are potentially struggling and just want to talk to somebody.
“The foundation will carry on that cause, to be a voice for some people that feel they have nowhere to go.”
Last month it was announced that the much-loved radio star’s family and friends had come together to form a charity in his name.
Larry, alongside Stephen’s brother Gavin, former Q Radio sidekick Cate Conway and We Are Vetigo businessman Gareth Murphy, are the main driving forces behind the Stephen Clements Foundation, which will officially launch later this year.
Mr Clements passed away on January 6, aged 47, just hours before he was due to go on air to present his recently launched BBC Radio Ulster mid-morning programme.
A private funeral service was later held for the married father-of-two, attended by family and close friends still reeling from his sudden passing.
At the weekend, the former Q Radio Breakfast star’s only brother spoke publicly for the first time about losing his “superhero” sibling.
Speaking to the Mental Wealth Podcast with journalist Phil Brown, Gavin Clements said: “The earth shook the day that we found out that Stephen had committed suicide and I don’t think we’ll ever get over it again, to be honest.”
Gavin, who is now in counselling, shared that he had also struggled with suicidal thoughts in the past, but had never acted on them.
“As far as Stephen, I’d say there’s definitely a source, there was something that definitely was there throughout the later years but we just don’t know exactly what it is,” he said.
Having looked back through all his final conversations with his brother, Gavin said it was natural for loved ones to wonder if they could have changed the outcome.
“I don’t think anyone can do anything when someone turns round and makes that decision,” he said.
He later learned Stephen had reached out to a family member in a letter to say he had suicidal thoughts. “Obviously we never knew about that, but absolutely no blame there whatsoever… clearly he was in a very hard place,” he said.
He said counselling had been a major help to his family in processing their grief, and urged others to do the same.
“It’s all about talking. The more talking the better,” he said.
Larry told the Sunday World that he is also in therapy as he tries to come to terms with the huge loss.
“I did think twice about it,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to do.
“But it didn’t take long for me to realise that it could only help.
“I don’t really watch many video clips of Stephen going up, I still can’t really watch them.
“I’m struggling because it reminds you that he should be about. But that will come in time, I am sure.”
Larry, who works for local printing company Alexander Boyd, was instrumental in helping to erect a number of billboards in memory of Stephen.
The huge posters, which are in place across Carrickfergus and Belfast, show a smiling Mr Clements surrounded by a collage of heartfelt tweets, composed by some of Northern Ireland’s best-known personalities.
It carries the words ‘Remembering Stephen Clements’, with the message: “Thank you for bringing joy and laughter to so many. Forever in our hearts.”
“I was involved in designing that and we printed all the billboards up,” said Larry. “That’s Gavin’s industry as well and we print for him, it was just natural for us to do something and that was our industry. It was pretty well received.”
He added: “All the posters are great but I kind of struggle with them as well, seeing his big smile.
“Ultimately, he shouldn’t be up there.
“He should be up there promoting something, not this. So it’s a bit difficult for me to look at him again.”
Larry met Stephen in 1990 whilst attending Carrickfergus Grammar School.
“I first met Gavin who was in my class, and Stephen was a couple of years above me.
“But when I was going round to Gavin’s house, me and Stephen just hit it off as well.
“The three of us became great friends. We had different relationships, myself and Gavin were best friends.
“Gavin’s a great guy and he settled down quite early on with his now wife who he has amazing kids. “Stephen and I didn’t really settle down just as quickly as Gavin did.
“So we did the holidays, the partying in Belfast regularly.”
The 44 year-old added: “We had so many brilliant times together. He touches upon it in his book, we took our first holiday abroad back in the day. Even recently we were still laughing about what went on there.
“Stephen was obviously so popular in the media world and worked pretty hard at that, but occasionally he’d come around here, sit on my sofa and not say a whole lot, it was his time to chill out.
“We were aware that he was probably exhausted from the effort he was putting into his show and the charity stuff he was doing it. He was knackered so we were loving it when he’d come around to us and chill out.”
Recalling the last time he saw Stephen, Larry said: “I met him for coffee, as I often did, in the hotel across the road from the BBC, and everything was OK.
“He was going through some difficult stuff at home. Having been through a tough time myself I was trying to keep him positive, make him aware whatever he was going through there will always be light at the end of the tunnel and we would get through it. So that was just a couple of days before Monday 6th.”
Larry said he will never forget the day he found out his best friend of 30 years had passed away.
“I had a call from someone who was concerned and myself and Gavin decided that we both needed to stop what we were doing and jump in the car and go down to the only place he could have been.
“Gavin got there five minutes before I did. He’d made a couple of phone calls to police before hand, just to see if they could locate him. And they did.
“I will never forget the phone call I got from Gavin, I was just around the corner when I found out.”
Larry added: “There’s a strength in the good times we had, in the fact we shared so many good times, that we laughed a lot.
“We had a weird sort of ability to make each other laugh and we sort of had our own weird language almost, that no one else could understand.
“I would have loved for there to have been another 30 years but, it wasn’t to be.”
The 44 year-old believes that the charity set up in Stephen’s name will change many lives.
“The Stephen Clements Foundation going to be very big and we would hope raise a lot of money for the charities that Stephen was involved in.
“That just seems like the natural cause for us to be involved in because of who he was and the platform we now have. It’s definitely worth doing. ”
He added: “Gavin and his family, and myself to a degree, sort have been thrust into the limelight a wee bit which none of us really want or are comfortable with.
“Gavin’s only motivation is to keep his brother’s name out there because he did so much good, and it was a tragedy.”
You can listen to Gavin’s podcast by visiting Mental Wealth Podcast on Twitter at: @oknot2beokpod
*If you have been affected by any of the issues in this story, contact the Samaritans on 116123 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.