Raising awareness of suicide

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After tragically losing a friend to suicide last year, five young men from Uist are now preparing for a 244-mile cycle from Glasgow to Uist at the end of the month, to raise awareness of suicide and the potentially tragic consequences of depression.

Steven Morrison (21) from Carinish, Peter Macnab (21) from Locheport, Lewis Maclean (21) from LochMaddy, Gordon Kennedy (18) from Lochmaddy, and Pol Kennedy (22) from Benbecula, but now based in Glasgow, will set off on their journey on August 29 from George Square, Glasgow. The Chairman of NHS Western Isles, Neil Galbraith, will be meeting the boys before they set off, to commend them on their efforts to raise awareness of this important issue. Health Board members will also meet the boys when they arrive in Uist on September 2, just one week before Suicide Prevention Week (September 10th to 16th) kicks off.

Peter MacNab explained: “After losing our dear friend Steven (Kennedy) late last year, when he lost his battle with depression and took his own life, I wondered if there was some way in which we could remember him and possibly give the situation some form of closure. I use the word ‘closure’ lightly as we don’t want to forget him, but only want to try and make the situation easier to deal with. Words can’t explain the feelings you get when you lose a friend in such a way.”

The boys, who were school friends in Uist, will be covering roughly 60 miles per day; cycling 60 miles on day one (Monday, August 29), 70 miles on days two and three (Tuesday and Wednesday August 30 and 31), and then 40 miles on day four (Thursday September 1).

“We decided to keep day four shorter as we will be tackling the hills in Skye,” said Peter. “That brings us to Uig on the Thursday night, then on Friday morning (September 2), we will get the ferry from Uig to Lochmaddy and cycle the remaining 12 miles to Carinish Hall on North Uist.”

He added: “If you see us on the road please give us a wave or a beep of the horn!”

The boys have been training every day to work up to the challenging cycle; each covering around 75 miles during the week and between 60 and 80 miles over the weekend.

The cyclists will also be raising money for CALM - ‘the campaign against living miserably’. It was set up in response to the high suicide rate amongst young men. It is a campaign and charity set up for and on behalf of young men.

“We have set up a Justgiving page - http://www.justgiving.com/teams/SAK,” said Peter. “This allows people to donate online. We are extremely close to meeting out target of £2500 online. We also have sponsor forms that have been distributed amongst our local community. We would like to say a very big ‘thank you’ to everyone who has donated and supported us so far. Your kindness is extremely heart warming and gratefully appreciated. Even if we meet our target, we would still encourage people to donate – as every penny raised is essential money for the cause. If anyone wishes to donate, they can do so by donating online at the above link.”

On their arrival back in Uist on September 2, the cyclists will be holding a ceilidh, featuring Glasgow traditional band ‘Yuptae’. Entry to the ceilidh will be by donation before 10pm, and then £5 afterwards. Information about Suicide Prevention Week will be available at the ceilidh.

Sponsorship for the ceilidh, raffle prize donations and donations towards the overheads associated with the cycle would all be welcomed (contact Steven Morrison at stevenm305@hotmail.com to donate).

Whilst the ‘excitement’ has clearly built around the task ahead, the boys stress that the ultimate goal of the cycle is to remember their school friend, Steven, whilst raising awareness of depression and suicide in young men.

“Until we lost Steven, we never knew that suicide was the biggest killer of men under 35,” said Peter. “None of his friends or family knew he was suffering from depression. All we really want is to help make people more aware of this silent killer and prevent other families having to deal with the issues that Steven’s family had to.”

Peter added: “If there are more people aware of depression, it will gradually become easier for young men to speak to about their feelings and it may help prevent other families/friends losing their loved ones in such a cruel way. You don’t know what you have lost until it’s gone.”

Chair of NHS Western Isles Neil Galbraith said: “Steven, Peter, Lewis, Gordon and Pol are to be commended for taking the initiative to raise awareness of suicide; an issue it is not always easy to talk about. By talking about suicide openly and responsibly, people at risk feel more comfortable about asking for, and responding to, the help they need.”

He added: “We need to continue to tackle the stigma that surrounds suicide to make people more comfortable about seeking help. Lifting the lid on our emotions can help prevent everyday problems building up that may overwhelm us. Ultimately, talking can save lives. Suicide Prevention Week this year takes place from September 10-16 and NHS Western Isles will use the week to raise public awareness, and spread the message about the tragedy of suicide and what can be done to prevent it.”

If you are feeling suicidal or suspect that someone you know is considering suicide, there are a number of helplines to contact:

Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90

Breathing Space: 0800 83 85 87 (Mon – Thurs 6pm-2am; Weekends: Fri 6pm – Mon 6am)

ChildLine: 0800 11 11

National Debt line: 0808 808 4000 (Mon – Fri 9am – 9pm, Sat 9.30 – 1pm)