Health Secretary speaks about brother’s suicide and says: ‘Could I have made a difference?’ 


Sajid Javid’s survivor’s guilt over older brother’s suicide: Health Secretary speaks for first-time after sibling was found dead in hotel four years ago… and how he’s tortured by the question: ‘Could I have made a difference?’

  • Sajid Javid, 52, described the impact of his eldest brother Tariq’s suicide in 2018
  • Tariq, 51, a supermarket chain manager, was found dead in a West Sussex hotel
  • After his death, his family learned about his physical and mental health problems
  • ‘There is a stigma around talking about mental health issues,’ Javid told a charity 
  • For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit samaritans.org

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has opened up about his eldest brother’s suicide four years ago, saying he still struggles with survivor’s guilt.

Javid’s brother Tariq, 51, killed himself in Horsham, West Sussex, in July 2018 shortly after checking-in to a five-star country house hotel.

At the time, Javid was serving as Home Secretary and was on his way back to London after visiting mother Zubaida in Bristol when another brother raised the alarm.

Tariq, the manager of a supermarket chain, had left two suicide notes to his partner Sylvia – telling her she should ‘carry on and enjoy life’.

He was later found face down in the shower while five-times the legal drink-drive limit.

Javid, 52, described his family’s struggle to come to terms with their loss while visiting the London headquarters of suicide charity Papyrus, where he told the assembly: ‘Maybe I could have made a difference. And I guess I will never know the answer to that,’ The Sunday Times reports.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, 52, has opened up about his eldest brother's suicide four years ago, saying he still struggles with survivor's guilt

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, 52, has opened up about his eldest brother’s suicide four years ago, saying he still struggles with survivor’s guilt

Javid's eldest brother Tariq, 51, killed himself in Horsham, West Sussex, in July 2018 shortly after checking-in to a five-star country house hotel

Javid’s eldest brother Tariq, 51, killed himself in Horsham, West Sussex, in July 2018 shortly after checking-in to a five-star country house hotel

He said: ‘We were all very close growing up – all five brothers born within seven years of each other – so you think about what we could have done? There were no signs and we learned later that Tariq had had some concerns about his work.

‘We learnt afterwards that he had a physical health problem that he hadn’t told anyone about… and if we had just known, if he had talked to us, perhaps we could have done something.

‘I think in some cultures and I would say this is true of the Pakistani culture – there is a stigma around talking about mental health issues. And we have to get the message out that it doesn’t matter what culture we come from – we are all human beings and all of us at some time of our lives can have a mental health challenge and there is nothing wrong with that.’

An inquest into Tariq’s death was held in October 2018, which found he had previously been prescribed codeine for leg and back pain.

He was signed off work a month before his death suffering from stress and anxiety; and he also had stomach complaints that were ‘under investigation’. A post-mortem found he had died as a result of drowning, ethanol poisoning, heart disease and codeine toxicity.

Javid is the third of five brothers and he says Tariq’s death has brought them closer. Second eldest brother Khalid, 53, works in financial services, while Basit, 51, is a deputy assistant commissioner at the Met Police, and 47-year-old Atif is a property developer.

Tariq Javid checked into the South Lodge  Hotel in Horsham, West Sussex, in July 2018 and was found dead face down in the shower a short time later

Tariq Javid checked into the South Lodge  Hotel in Horsham, West Sussex, in July 2018 and was found dead face down in the shower a short time later

A proud father of four himself, Javid added: ‘I make sure I make time for people and ask them how they are feeling.’

His father, Abdul Ghani-Javid arrived in England with the boys’ mother Zubaida with only £1 to his name in 1961.

The couple settled in Rochdale but later moved to Bristol to pursue their retail business.

His shop, Scallywags, was in the middle of a notoriously crime-ridden part of Bristol and the Home Secretary has previously joked about seeing a prostitute standing outside the shop as a child.

Despite the five siblings’ difficult start in life, all five brothers have gone on to lead distinguished careers in their respective fields of business, politics and public sector roles.

Sajid Javid was the first non-white person to hold one of Britain’s offices of state. 

  • For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit samaritans.org 

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