A grieving young mum has bravely opened up about her landscape designer partner’s battle with drug addiction and depression which led him to take his own life.
Friends knew Leigh Hinkley, 30, from Melbourne, as a devoted family man who loved to make everyone smile. But his good-natured persona hid personal demons.
Leigh, a dad of two little boys, Patrick, three, and six-month-old Harrison, died by suicide on February 21.
That has led his partner of eight years, Whitley Fleet, to speak out about the importance of checking family and friends are OK – particularly men, who ‘find it hard to express their feelings’.
Ms Fleet was the last person Leigh spoke to, hours before his body was found in Melbourne’s south-east.
‘It’s something you don’t wish on anyone,’ Ms Fleet told Daily Mail Australia.
‘My world has been tipped upside down.’
Leigh Hinkley (right) took his own life in February. He’s survived by his longtime partner Whitney and young sons Patrick and Harrison
She picked up worrying signs a week prior that Leigh wasn’t himself and tried in vain to convince him to open up to her.
Ms Fleet will never forget their last phone call just before 7pm on February 20. ‘I was the last person Leigh spoke to,’ she recalled.
‘He had sent me a goodbye message, which was really distressing.
‘I spoke to him on the phone to tell him that everything would be OK and asked where he was.’
‘But he refused to me where he was and just kept on saying he was sorry. That was pretty much it.’
The next morning, Ms Fleet received a call requesting she go down to the police station.
‘I went down thinking he was going to be there,’ she said.
‘The first thing I wanted to do was hug him and tell him that me and boys loved him.’
‘When they sat me down and said he had died, I fell to the floor. I couldn’t believe and was in shock for the next few days.’
Whitney Fleet and Leigh Hinkley (pictured) were together for eight years
Leigh (pictured with partner Whitney and son Patrick) battled depression and drug addiction
She described Mr Hinkley as caring and always up for a joke and a laugh.
‘He was always known as a funny and quick witted person who wanted to make everyone smile,’ Ms Fleet said.
‘But his whole life has been tinted with sadness.
‘He lost his mum when he was three so he was traumatised by the loss and other things that had happened during his childhood.’
Mr Hinkley battled drug addiction and mental health issues on and off for 10 years.
‘He would hide it from me or lie about it and would never express to me or anyone of how he was feeling,’ Ms Fleet said.
‘In the end, the depression was too much for him to face and it tipped him over the edge.’
Hours before he died, Mr Hinkley posted heartbreaking final messages to his family on Facebook.
‘You never will understand how much I love you Whitney even so I’ve hurt you, lied to you, stolen from you, I destroyed everything,’ he wrote
‘I’m sorry you never deserved that. I love you Bubby. I can’t live without you.’
Leigh Hinkley uploaded a harrowing final post to his partner hours before he died
A year ago, Leigh Hinkley and his partner were preparing for the arrival of their second child
Ms Fleet’s current focus is on raising her two boys and teaching them that it’s okay to express their emotions.
‘I want them to grow up being able to tell me how they’re feeling and that they don’t have to hold it in all the time,’ she said.
More than 150 people attended Mr Hinkley’s funeral last week, where mourners were urged to make a donation to mental health support organisation Beyond Blue in lieu of flowers.
Friends have described Mr Hinkley as one of the funniest people they’d ever met.
‘What a man what a character you always made me laugh brother. You will be missed my many and never forgotten,’ one mate wrote.
Another friend added: ‘My heart aches knowing I’ll never get to speak to you again, that you won’t get to watch your boys grow up and that we’ve lost you Leigh bear. There will always be a special place in my heart for you. I’m sorry that you thought this world wasn’t for you.’
Friends and family have rallied around Ms Fleet and set up an online fundraiser to help relieve some the financial burden while she grieves.
‘Leigh was their main provider due to Whitney being a stay at home mum. All money raised will go towards funeral costs, rent and bills, food for the family as well as essential supplies for the boys,’ it states.
Leigh Hinkley (right) also posted harrowing final messages to sons Patrick (left) and Harrison
Whitney Fleet (right) was the last person to speak to her partner Leigh (left) before he died
The fundraiser set up by the mother of Ms Fleet’s best friend has raised almost $14,000 so far.
‘Before all this happened, I was looking to return to work in the next few months to help with the bills,’ Ms Fleet said.
‘The support has been unbelievable. It means I can take a few more months to process what has happened.’
She now urges others battling mental to not be ashamed about speaking out.
‘Get help and reach out to anyone,’ she said.
‘Mental health is a huge issue, particularly with men, who find it hard to express their feelings.’
If you or anyone you know needs support, contact Lifeline 131 114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.
Whitney hopes sharing Leigh’s story (pictured together with son Patrick) will inspire others battling inner demons to speak up and seek help
Leigh Hinkley battled drug addiction and depression on and off for at least ten years