Both father and son were equally talented, sharing the same passion for rugby, but the lack of support and encouragement after his father's tragic death tormented the troubled teen for many years.
At the tender age of nine, Luqmaan Ismail was the last person who spoke to his father before his death. Health24 spoke to the now 28-year-old Ismail about the trauma of that fatal day and the impact his father’s suicide had on his life.
'If he'd only waited'
“My father was selfish; he never believed in my ability to make it at professional level. And if he'd just waited two more years he would have witnessed my abilities,” says Ismail.
At age 16, Ismail was living his rugby dream with a scholarship from one of the prestigious rugby schools in Paarl, but in his head he fought a lonely battle. While everything from a rugby perspective may have been flourishing – from playing locally to playing in Scotland – his years of trauma and loneliness finally caught up with him.
“Everything seemed perfect from the outside, but I was engaged in a silent struggle. Rugby was my escape, but everyone said I was going to turn out just like him – and at one point I actually believed them.”
It was during his adolescence when the void of not having a father, whom he yearned to turn to for advice, became too much. With crippling self-doubt and the onset of depression, Ismail wanted to end his life.
“At this point I thought if he [his father] could do it, so could I.
'Boys should cry'
“I reached an all-time low [and] I tried to commit suicide. Thankfully it wasn’t successful as I’m still here to tell my story today,” says Ismail.
Ismail believes that growing up in a culture where boys are taught to keep their tears behind "closed doors" and "if it’s not bleeding it don’t need healing", forms part of an environment that contributes to males not paying attention to their mental well-being.
This is one of the reasons the former Lions player encourages young boys and men to seek help. “Boys should cry. Men should cry. If you don't speak, people won't know. Always go out and seek help.”
With rugby in his heart, the retired sportsman used his passion for rugby and experience in psychology to encourage youngsters to make better life choices through the Coolplay project, which teaches life skills through sport and provides children with the confidence they need to tackle life head-on.
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