Huge response to shirt suicide initiative ahead of TV game

·5-min read
Widnes launch shirt suicide initiative for TV game Credit: PA Images
Widnes launch shirt suicide initiative for TV game Credit: PA Images

A powerful message will be displayed during the televised Championship clash between Widnes and Halifax tonight (Monday).

As part of an initiative with State of Mind, the Vikings will display 120 shirts on seats at the DCBL Stadium, marking the number of people around the world that will take their own lives during the course of an 80 minute match.

Clubs at all levels have been sending shirts in with many more to be added on the night, including from State of Mind co-founder Phil Cooper.

Cooper said: “I’m taking a Warrington Wolves shirt, and it’s from the season when Andrew Johns came over for the last three games. It reminds me of his debut at the Halliwell Jones Stadium and my lifelong friend Simon Ellam from college.

“Unfortunately Simon took his own life in April 2019, and that shirt reminds me of being with him at lots of rugby games. I thought it should have one more outing.

“It’s a fantastic initiative that is a really great way of highlighting how many people will take their own life around the world during the course of an 80 minute game.

“To have 120 rugby league shirts in empty seats is very strong. The idea has come from the men’s mental fitness group at Widnes, and it’s a fantastic way of raising the profile of a serious issue.

“What we’re hoping will happen is that people will think about it and maybe consider some training around the Zero Suicide Alliance, or even just talk to somebody and ask the question if they’re struggling at the moment. People can be quite frightened to ask that for a number of reasons but it can be so important.”

World Suicide Prevention Day

The Halifax match takes place in the same week as World Suicide Prevention Day on Saturday September 10, and while State of Mind continues its work to prevent future tragedies taking place.

Cooper added: “From an initial meeting that came after reading an article in League Express saying that the NHS and rugby league should get together, we’ve reached around 150,000 people with training sessions over the last 10 years.

“We’ve had many tell us that they’ve changed their mind about taking their own life, which is what we’re striving for, to change the next person’s mind and their direction.”

Beyond rugby league

Also present in the display on Monday night will be two Warrington Running Club vests in memory of Kevin Miller and Tim Reid, illustrating how the idea has extended beyond just rugby league circles.

Club member Johanne White explained: “After seeing the initiative Widnes Vikings were doing in raising awareness around suicide and the stigma surrounding men’s mental health in particular, I felt compelled to ask the families could I include the running club shirts of the two members of Warrington Running Club who tragically have taken their own lives.

“Kevin Miller was 46 when he took his own life on July 25 this year. A true Scotsman he lit up a room with his smile warmth and personality.  He joined the running club in 2017 and was a much loved friend and active member of the club competing in countless events over the years.

“Tim Reid was 52 when he took his own life in January 2018. Tim was always known as a gentle kind and loving person. He competed in many race events and loved his triathlons. At the time of his death Tim was a serving police officer for Merseyside Police Force.

“It’s so important to keep highlighting that it’s ok not to feel ok. We hope that by having  Kev and Tim’s shirts displayed amongst the 120 strikes a chord with just one person to be able to say I’m struggling, I need to talk. Please please reach out to someone. Be kind to yourself.”

Raising awareness

Widnes regularly hold mental health drop in sessions as part of their community programmes.

Widnes Vikings CEO Phil Finney adds: “The shirt initiative and concept we are implementing alongside State of Mind, in order to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention, has so far received a fantastic response.

“We have a platform as a historic club to raise awareness of such a very important and prominent societal issue, as a club we want to be more than just a rugby league team and this initiative, highlighting the very sad story from the running club, underpins our vision and ambition to engage with a much wider audience.”

Tickets for the game, which kicks off at 7.45pm, are available for just £5.

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