A GRIEVING mother has said she will do whatever she can to raise awareness of mental health problems for men after her beloved son, Mike Penhalagan, 26, took his own life.

Mr Penhalagan from Worcester was a popular American football player for the Hereford Stampede and affectionately known as ‘Big Mike.’

He was found dead on June 4.

His mother said she shared a coffee with him the day he died and had no idea her son was feeling suicidal.

She said: “I saw him the day that he died. He just kept saying ‘mum, I’m fine.’

“He’d been laid off because of Covid and he was struggling financially.

“But he had just got an interview for a new job and he was excited - that was what was so hard to understand. He was talking about the future.

“It is hard to understand how someone who is so loving and kind and generous could be in a place that is so bad.

“I want to use his death to raise awareness of mental illness. If I can stop one mother going through what I have then I will be happy.”

Mr Penhalagan’s teammates are raising awareness and funds for Herefordshire Mind following his death.

Club members are completing a Route 66 Challenge in his memory which will see his teammates running, walking and/or cycling the distance of Route 66, a total of 2,400 miles.

Mrs Burton said: “When I found out what they were doing, raising money for people who may be able to bridge that gap between feeling so alone and being able to speak out and talk to someone, I was so pleased.”

She added: “He was the kind of person that people were drawn to. He had a warmth to him. He was always worried about others. He made sure everyone else was OK. He just forget to worry about himself.”

The club posted this tribute on their Facebook page: “Big Mike will be a massive loss to this world, he was such a talented player who played with heart every single time he stepped on the field, he won’t just be remembered for his skill as a player but as a kind hearted young man with a great soul. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones at this difficult time.”

They have nearly met their £2,500 fundraising target.

The Samaritans is available 24/7 if you need to talk. You can contact them for free by calling 116 123.