Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and the League Managers Association (LMA), the representative body for professional football managers in England, have launched a new partnership that aims to raise suicide awareness within the whole of society and help prevent suicide.
In the first phase, the new partnership will work with a number of LMA members, who have current or former connections as a manager or player to clubs in Greater Manchester, to enable them to provide a platform to highlight that we all have a role to play in supporting those around us and preventing suicide.
The new partnership between the Mayor and the LMA will support the Shining a Light on Suicide campaign, run by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership. The campaign works to change how people feel using the word suicide, so that everyone can comfortably and confidently start open and honest conversations about suicide and suicidal feelings. It is hoped that managers will be able to use their influence and reach to raise awareness of the Shining a Light on Suicide campaign.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 49 and women aged 20 to 34. More than 200 people a year die by suicide in Greater Manchester and research has shown that up to 135 people are affected by each death. While many existing campaigns encourage people to talk about mental health and well-being, there is often little or no direct mention of suicide and this new high-profile partnership aims to address that. Research has shown that using the word ‘suicide’ lets other people know it is ok to talk about suicidal feelings and that the person asking is there to listen.
As part of the partnership, members of the LMA will also be given the opportunity to become ‘suicide aware’ through a 20 minute Zero Suicide Alliance training course, which is also available for free to the public and through the Shining a Light on Suicide website. This is available to train all of us to recognise the signs that someone may be thinking about suicide and understand where to get help.
Further activity to promote the partnership and raise suicide awareness will be announced in the coming weeks and months.
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “Suicide is the biggest killer of younger men and women, yet it is a subject which we all find it very hard to speak about. Greater Manchester’s Shining a Light on Suicide campaign is a ground-breaking effort to save lives by breaking this taboo and it is an enormous boost for the campaign that the League Managers Association and its members are throwing their weight behind it.
“These have been dark and difficult times for many people and we know there is a growing mental health crisis taking place alongside this pandemic that will still be there after it’s over. But we also know that people have been looking out for each other more and that gives us something to build on. Just having a little bit of knowledge about suicide, and the confidence to speak about it in the right way, can help to save a life.
“Football managers have got so much to offer to this much-needed campaign and I am deeply grateful to them for having the courage to take it on. They are often great communicators; experts in reading what people are thinking and finding a way of getting through to them. They are no strangers to high-pressure environments and coping with the ups and downs of life. I believe the brave decision of the League Managers Association to back Greater Manchester’s Shining a Light on Suicide campaign could be a game-changer in the national conversation about one of the country’s biggest killers.”
LMA Chief Executive, Richard Bevan, said: “The LMA is proud to be partnering with Mayor Andy Burnham, with the support of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, to raise awareness of the Shining a Light on Suicide campaign.
“Football managers can have such a positive impact on raising awareness of important issues within society. It is crucial to communicate and help break down the barriers to talking openly about suicide, suicidal thoughts and suicide bereavement so that people feel able to request help when they need it most.
“A host of LMA members, with connections to Greater Manchester, have already confirmed their support of this partnership, in the first instance through a social media campaign, launched to raise awareness of Shining a Light on Suicide, bringing suicide out of the dark and learning to save a life. A further group of members will then support the next phases of the campaign.
We look forward to working with Mayor Andy Burnham in the Greater Manchester area and exploring the potential to extend these extremely important awareness actions nationwide.”
Former Manchester City manager and Manchester United forward, Mark Hughes OBE, said: “With my strong connections to both Manchester United and Manchester City, as a player and then a manager, I feel honoured to be supporting the launch of this outstanding partnership on behalf of the LMA’s members.
“Suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 49 and women aged 20 to 34 and, whilst it may not be an easy subject to talk about, it’s important to be direct if you’re concerned about someone. You don’t have to be a healthcare professional to help or even be close to the person, you just need to listen.
“Together we can all work to encourage openness and honesty, which will ultimately empower everyone to play a part in preventing suicide.”
LMA Board member and former Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson CBE, said: “The ‘Shining a Light on Suicide’ campaign is so important and I am pleased, both as a former Manchester United manager and as an LMA Board member, to see the LMA partner with Mayor Andy Burnham to support this vital project.
“It’s essential that the topic of suicide is spoken about openly and we can all play a part in making this happen. The more we talk about suicide, the easier it is to ask someone if they’re having suicidal thoughts. Talking really could help to save a life.
“I am proud that so many LMA members with affiliations to various Greater Manchester clubs have given their backing to the campaign and I’m sure this will become a flagship for similar projects nationwide.”
Judd Skelton, Chair of Greater Manchester Suicide Prevention Programme Board, said: “The Shining a Light on Suicide campaign encourages people to talk openly about suicide, which is crucial to break the stigma and give people the opportunity to open up about suicidal thoughts.
“This partnership brings the topic of suicide into the light and is an important step forward in making Greater Manchester and the football community more suicide aware. By offering LMA members the opportunity to take part in Zero Suicide Alliance’s suicide awareness training, we are empowering football managers to take an active role in suicide prevention.
“The campaign is also an important reminder of the role we all play in raising awareness and preventing suicide. I urge everyone to take part in the 20-minute online Learn to Save a Life training, which is available to all. It gives you the skills and confidence to talk about suicide and really could help you save a life.”
Suicide affects us all. Encourage someone to talk before suicide seems their only option. Together we can help prevent suicide. Find out how at shiningalightonsuicide.org.uk
If you’re struggling to cope, call Samaritans on 116 123 or text Shout on 85258.
Visit the website to learn more and take the free Zero Suicide Alliance 20-minute training to learn how to save a life.
If you have bereaved or affected by suicide support is available at Greater Manchester Bereavement Service.
The Samaritans’ media guidelines on how to safely cover suicide is available on the Samaritans’ website.