Man saved by A Band of Brothers says he owes his life to the charity

Reece Palattao from Truro, Cornwall, says he owes his life to the men's support charity A Band of Brothers
Reece Palattao from Truro, Cornwall, says he owes his life to the men's support charity A Band of Brothers -Credit:Olivier Vergnault / Cornwall Live

Reece Palattao is a man who stood on the edge of despair. Feeling so overwhelmed with everything he seriously considered taking his own life. It was a call from a men's support group that pulled him back from the edge.

The 32-year-old felt he couldn't cope and it was a chance call from Richard Gray from A Band of Brothers that helped him to realise he had so much to live for.

"I lost my mum at a young age," Reece said. "I also lost my nan who had been like a second mum to me. So I lived with my uncle and aunt which was a different lifestyle to what I had been used to before. My older brother beat me and bullied me while we were growing up.

"When my dad died two years ago, I broke. I was holding so much in me. I lost my job in Aldi. I remember walking back home one day. I was in a daze. I don't remember the journey. I had joined Man Down at the time but it was not helping. That day I had been ready to kill myself."

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Thankfully Reece realised what he was about to do and called a friend over. His mate walked him home that day and ended up keeping an eye on him all night long. Reece said he spent the next few days almost in a trance.

Reece, who moved to Cornwall from Surrey for a fresh start just over two years ago, added. "It was the call from Richard Gray from A Band of Brothers to me which truly saved my life."

The young man first met Richard at the Cornish men's mental health charity Man Down. Richard, who leads the Falmouth and St Austell circles for A Band of Brothers support organisation in Cornwall, had seen Reece at a game event organised by Man Down and made a mental note to check up on him and call him to see how he was doing.

Reece explained: "He was the only one who saw past the mask I was wearing and spoke to me at that event. I told him what was happening in my life and that week he called me again. He said to me that he didn't know why he needed to call me but felt it was important that he did. I'm glad he did. He saved my life."

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It was this conversation that led Reece to go on A Band of Brothers' rite of passage weekend and join the group even though it is mostly for men aged 18 to 25. Set up in 2012 in Brighton, A Band of Brothers was born out of concern at the continuing escalation of self-destructive and anti-social behaviour among young men from every section of society.

Young men, often referred to the organisation by the judicial system as a way to prevent them from ending up in prison, are supported by one-to-one mentors through their journey. A national organisation, it now has three communities in Cornwall - Falmouth, Penzance and most recently in St Austell.

Reece added: "I was part of the Man Down group. They're a great bunch. If you want to let off a bit of steam it's the perfect place. But if you want to go deeper and sort out what's going on in your life, A Band of Brothers was a better place for me.

"I didn't know I was too old to join but Richard told them about my circumstances and I joined them on the quest weekend and was accepted. I did the six-week meetings. That was truly eye-opening. I had felt bad but I didn't realise how bad until I joined. The way I see it, A Band of Brothers is like a door that opens onto the crap in your life. You can open it up. You can have a little peep inside but it is up to you to walk through it. That's how I felt. I could walk through that door and come out stronger or I could stay in the bad place I had been in all my life."

Reece stepped through that door and with the help of his new cohort he explored the issues that had led him to contemplate taking his own life.

As a group and during their sessions with their mentors young men like Reece explore their feelings of sadness, grief and anger in a non-judgemental way. Rites of passage similar to those in tribal societies then mark the milestones of their achievements in dealing with their issues, and becoming better men.

"I was floating in a void," Reece explained. "But A Band of Brothers was like this spiral upwards. It's about taking that first step. It's about believing in yourself and rising."

He said the rite of passage weekend and sessions helped him to realise he needed to make time for himself rather than always try to shadow his problems and hide from them. He realised he could not deal with his emotions and had to take that moment to be true to himself. He said: "I was fighting with myself constantly. I was constantly negative. I didn't have any positive outlook about the future. I had so much rage in my life."

With everything going on in his life, Reece, who works in a vape shop in Truro, said he certainly was not thinking about any girlfriend or relationship. Yet, as a result of accepting himself, he's now in a relationship with a woman who came into his shop one day... and came back again and again - not for the vapes but for him.

He said he told her about his past and working with A Band of Brothers so their relationship is based on transparency, trust and openness. Reece said: "She was gobsmacked. When I told her about A Band of Brothers she asked me if there's 'A Band of Sisters'."

Reece Palattao from Truro, Cornwall, says he owes his life to the men's support charity A Band of Brothers
Reece Palattao from Truro, Cornwall, says he owes his life to the men's support charity A Band of Brothers -Credit:Olivier Vergnault / Cornwall Live

Gone is the rage from Reece's life. He said he used to use the word 'hate' so much about so many things and people. Now he's learned of the power of words and the most important ones to understand in life and deal with, are 'hate', 'love' and 'respect'.

He said the power of having been part of A Band of Brothers, something he continues to do with a view to becoming a mentor when he reaches the age of 35, is that he can now recognise the signs when other men are hiding their own problems behind a mask.

Reece said that not so long ago he spoke to another reveller in a nightclub when no one else did when the man in question started kicking off. He said that once he had broken through the original barrier of angst and confrontation, he managed to reach out to him and during a long chat the other man opened up. Reece said that this action of sharing saved the other chap from doing something stupid and helped him to realise there was a better way to deal with his problems.

"People don't always show their mental health scars on their bodies," Reece said. "But they do through their actions. I can tell when someone is standing in the void. I know, because I've been there."

If you are a young man aged between 18 and 25 years and want to be supported and listened to without judgement, or you know a young man who you believe could take a look at what A Band of Brothers does, or you’re an older man who feels drawn to mentor young men then visit the charity's website here or find them on Facebook.