Life

BBC Broadcaster Tara Mills on her new documentary Tara Mills: Life after Loss

Tara Mills with nephew Finn, her brother Richard's son
Tara Mills with nephew Finn, her brother Richard's son Tara Mills with nephew Finn, her brother Richard's son

Tara Mills: Life After Loss follows BBC presenter Tara Mills as she explores the profound impact her brother Richard’s death has had on her and her family.

Richard Mills broke into news photography with The Irish News before going on to become a front-line photojournalist with The Times. He died by suicide 15 years ago whilst working in Zimbabwe. 

“He was this enormously empathetic person, he was so funny, and he had a very big connection to The Irish News and also to the fabulous Brendan Murphy, the former picture editor and Richard’s mentor”, Tara explains.

The hour-long documentary sees Tara and her nephew Finn, Richard’s son, travel 8,000 miles to Zimbabwe to retrace his last steps and speak to those who were with him during his final days.

“I learnt so much from the process of working with Finn and finding out things that we probably wouldn’t have ever discussed because we spent the time keeping Richard’s memory alive, talking about him and all the funny stories, but I hadn’t realised that actually that was really hard for Finn to hear those stories," says Tara.

“He felt it almost magnified his loss because he didn’t have those memories and he couldn’t contribute to the conversation.”

Suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 50 in the UK and through this project Tara explores the prevailing mental health crisis affecting many in Northern Ireland.

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“I remember when my brother died, I googled 'suicide' and the two things that I always remember are that three-quarters of people who actually take their own lives have never sought any help," she says.

“The other was that people who take their own life don’t want to die and that was the hardest thing. I was crushed by that because I thought that people just don’t want to live in the situation that they’re in.”

Richard Mills on location
Richard Mills on location Richard Mills on location

During the documentary, Tara travels across Northern Ireland to see first-hand the amount of vital support provided through local charities and community groups to those suffering in silence as well as for the families left behind by suicide.

“What’s interesting about this, aside from the personal story, is that Draperstown and Derry were the two places that we focused on and it’s just remarkable what the community has done there.

“Particularly Draperstown, The S.T.E.P.S. project has counselled over 600 people in their own community because the local GP was struggling.

“What stood out to me was that maybe you just need somebody to listen and that’s something that’s shown in the film, that a listening ear is sometimes what people need.”

Tara Mills: Life After Loss airs Wednesday November 1 at 10.40pm on BBC One NI and BBC IPlayer.  If you are affected by the issues raised in this article, more information and access to support can be found through Samaritans or Lifeline