Outlander extra's death inspires film highlighting suicide epidemic among young men.
Film director writes screenplay about depression in young males after tragedy of pal Liam O'Brien, 24, who she had met on the set of the hit series.
The Daily Record ran this story on the inspiration for Marilyn Edmond's Connect. Original here by Heather Greenaway:
The mother of a 24-year-old oil worker whose tragic death is the basis for a new feature film hopes the movie will start a discussion about suicide in young men.
Liam O’Brien had a fantastic job, a loving family and great friends when he took his own life.
He was also a movie extra and his death prompted his pal Marilyn Edmond to pen a screenplay to highlight the suicide epidemic among young men in the UK. Her film Connect, which features Sunset Song star Kevin Guthrie in the lead role, premiered at the Glasgow Film Festival last month.
Liam’s mum Lorraine, 54, feels honoured that her son inspired Marilyn’s debut film.
She hopes it might encourage other young men to talk about how they are feeling before it is too late.
Liam O'Brien tragically took his own life.
The mother of four, from Carrbridge, Inverness-shire, said: “I went with Liam’s two older twin brothers to see the film and didn’t know what to expect but it was amazing.
“It’s not the story of my son’s life but I feel very honoured that Liam inspired Marilyn to make it. If the film keeps my son’s memory alive for just that little bit longer, and if it stops one more person from taking their own life, then it’s all been worthwhile.
“Liam always wanted to be famous. He was an extra in Outlander and that’s where he met Marilyn.
“He also tried out for The X Factor and The Voice. In a way, this film fulfils his wish for fame.”
Liam, who played rugby for Inverness Craig Dunain, committed suicide in his family’s home just 10 days after his best friend Morgan Evans collapsed and died at the age of 23.
Lorraine, who is also mum to 28-year-old twins Christopher and Anthony and 12-year-old Molly, said: “Liam’s best friend died 10 days before he took his life. He just dropped down dead. He had cardiac problems.
“They had gone all through school together and had been really close.
Lorraine hopes film keeps Liam's memory alive
“Liam had suffered with mental health problems in the past but, to be honest, we thought he was doing OK after losing his friend.
“He didn’t cry, he wasn’t depressed but he was very quiet. Then one day I came home to a note on the table.
“Three years on, and it doesn’t get any easier. He was such a beautiful, fun-loving and cheeky guy, who had so much to live for.
“If someone had said my son was going to do that, I would have said, ‘No way, never in a million years’.”
Lorraine added: “I never saw the signs. I guess it’s when they don’t talk to you and they tell you they are fine.
“Liam had so much to live for – he had a good job, was earning good money, he adored his brothers and his little sister – but that didn’t stop him taking his life.
“It’s not until it happens to you that you realise what a huge issue it is. Suicide is the biggest killer of young men in the UK.
“Marilyn’s film is addressing the problem head-on. It’s fantastic.”
Connect, set in the picture-perfect coastal town of North Berwick, was shot in 15 days and made on a micro budget. It is a call to action to widen the conversation about mental health and suicide.
The plot centres on Brian, played by Guthrie, and his struggles with social anxiety and depression and his attempts to reconnect with the world.
Marilyn, 37, said while the character wasn’t based on him, Liam was the spark that ignited her journey.
She said: “We worked on a job together and became friends on Facebook. He posted saying how amazing his life was. I remember reading the post and being really happy for him.
“After a while, his posts stopped and I knew something was not right. I found out he’d killed himself – four months after posting about how happy he was.
“He was only 24 – his life hadn’t even started yet.
Marilyn Edmond's film Connect starring Kevin Guthrie
“I had been wanting to write a screenplay and decided this was a subject that needed addressing.
“Research for the project revealed nine times out of 10, the families had no idea what the person was going through. It always seemed to take people completely by surprise.”
Marilyn, of Prestonpans, East Lothian, who has a three-year-old daughter, Charley, added: “It was brave of Liam’s mum to come and see it.
“They said that if it encourages people to talk about mental health, at least something good came out of his story.
“Like Liam, Brian had a very supportive family, a job he liked and he lived in a beautiful place. I wanted to make it very clear that depression can hit anyone and everyone.”
The former Preston Lodge High School pupil, who self-financed her debut feature, was delighted when Guthrie agreed to come on board.
Marilyn Edmond with Kevin Guthrie at Glasgow Film Festival premiere (Image: Iain McGuinness/Alamy)
She said: “I had worked with him on three jobs, including Sunshine on Leith, and he was my first choice for the lead.
“He phoned me back the day after I sent him the script, saying he was in as it was a subject he felt strongly about.”
Connect is to be shown at the Scottish Parliament next month after catching the attention of Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs.
It will also be screened at the Lomond Film Festival in July and at Fringe by the Sea, in North Berwick, in August.
Marilyn, who is working on her second film, said: “My dream is for Connect to be picked up by TV or a distributor for cinema, because the more people it reaches the better.
“This epidemic needs to be stopped.”
Photo Iain McGuinness