Football rivals Ross County and Inverness Caledonian Thistle put on a united front on World Suicide Prevention Day to support mental health charity Mikeysline
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A football rivalry that runs deep across the Highlands has been kicked into touch as clubs unite to support mental health charity Mikeysline on World Suicide Prevention Day.
Ross County stars have lined up alongside their Inverness Caledonian Thistle counterparts to highlight the importance of reaching out for support.
Suicide rates are higher in the Highlands than the rest of Scotland with statistics showing three-quarters of those who do take their own lives in this country are male, with around half aged 35-54.
Mikeysline has recently expanded its operations into Ross-shire to include hubs in Evanton and Tain and won support from high-profile ambassadors including Invergordon strongman Luke Stoltman and Ross County chief executive Steven Ferguson.
The sporting truce echoes the FC United to Prevent Suicide campaign bringing together football heroes to dispel myths and reduce suicide rates.
Ross County defender Keith Watson said there was a big drive in football to be aware of mental health with more people beginning to speak up.
"Support services like Mikeysline can make a real difference," he said.
"It’s important to know that it’s okay to talk and it’s okay to get help, as this will make a big difference to people’s lives."
Caley Thistle goalkeeper Mark Ridgers said it was important to raise awareness given what had happened over the last 18 months with people impacted in different ways, including changes in their work and their social lives.
He said: "If you are struggling, don’t hide away from it. Get support from Mikeysline or from wherever you are comfortable getting it.
"Equally, if you notice changes in a friend or family member, you can help point them in the right direction for support."
Mikeysline chief executive Emily Stokes said: "Football is such an important part of every community, so being able to bring our message to a larger audience has been fantastic.
"Suicide rates are sadly higher in the Highlands than anywhere else in Scotland – so it is more important than ever to spread the message about proactively looking after our mental health.
"There’s no wrong time to reach out for support with your wellbeing and mental health.
"You don’t need to be considering suicide to be worthy of help.Whether you’re feeling pressures at work getting on top of you, are struggling with a family issue, or are just feeling a bit down – it’s important to remember that it’s okay not to be okay, and that help is always available to those who need it."
Mikeysline offers confidential, non-judgemental support to people of all ages with mental health issues or in emotional distress in the Highlands via a text line service at 07786 207755, as well as via live chat, Twitter and Messenger. It also offers face-to-face support from three Hives – at its Inverness headquarters in Academy Street, Tesco in Tain and at Am Bothan Community Café by Skiach, Evanton.
Councillor Linda Munro, chairwoman of Highland Council’s health, social care and wellbeing committee, said the day helps raise awareness "of a significant public health crisis".
She said: "Highland has had a small decrease in deaths by probable suicide in 2020.However, worryingly the five-year average figures is higher in Highland than the national average.
"Communities and people of the Highlands are encouraged to collectively work together with health professionals, charities, schools and organisations to demystify the stigma around suicide and poor mental health."