Ross County teams up with Highland rivals Inverness Caledonian Thistle to back mental health charity Mikeysline on World Suicide Prevention Day
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TWO historic footballing adversaries in the Highlands are today setting aside their differences to support mental health charity Mikeysline on World Suicide Prevention Day.
Players from Ross County and Inverness Caledonian Thistle have joined forces in promoting the importance of mental health support and suicide prevention.
Highland Council is also joining in the global event to raise awareness and demystify the stigma around suicide and poor mental health.
The sporting truce comes as the FC United to Prevent Suicide campaign kicks off across Scotland, bringing together footballing 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 and more people were beginning to speak up about it.
"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 and does make a big difference to people’s lives."
Inverness Caledonian Thistle goalkeeper Mark Ridgers said it was important to raise awareness especially given what had happened over the last 18 months with people being impacted in different ways including changes in their work and their social lives.
"If you are struggling, don’t hide away from it," he said.
"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."
The two players, along with Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s Harry Nicolson and Ross County’s Regan Charles-Cook, toured Mikeysline’s support hub, The Hive in Inverness, to learn more about the services the charity provides across the Highlands.
The visit builds on the work of Mikeysline ambassadors John Robertson, sporting director at Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and Ross County chief executive Steven Ferguson, who realise the importance of the footballing community in spreading the world about positive mental health attitudes.
Mikeysline chief executive Emily Stokes was grateful to the two clubs for joining forces.
"Football is such an important part of every community, so being able to bring our message to a larger audience has been fantastic," she said.
"The latest statistics from Public Health Scotland show that almost three quarters of those who take their own life in Scotland are male, with around half aged between 35-54.
"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, which was set up in 2015, 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. The charity also offers face-to-face support from three Hives across the Highlands – at its Inverness headquarters in Academy Street, Tesco in Tain and at Am Bothan Community Café by Skiach, Evanton.
Earlier this year, it launched a dedicated young person’s support service.
Councillor Linda Munro, chairwoman of Highland Council's health, social care and wellbeing committee, said World Suicide Prevention Day was a day in which global awareness was raised of a significant public health crisis.
"Highland has had a small decrease in deaths by probable suicide in 2020," she said.
"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."