Major sports clubs across West Yorkshire have joined forces with health leaders to issue a timely reminder for everyone to ‘check in with a mate’ this festive season – a time of year which can feel overwhelming for some.
Leeds Rhinos, Bradford City AFC, Keighley Cougars and Bradford Bulls (player George Flanagan pictured below right) are some of the star-studded clubs supporting the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership’s (WY HCP) ‘Check In With Your Mate’ suicide prevention campaign which encourages all to have conversations around mental health, particularly among men, as well as raising awareness of risk factors and where to signpost for support.
West Yorkshire’s suicide rate is higher than the national average, with a three-year rate of 12.5 registered suicide deaths per 100,000 people in 2020-2022, compared to a rate of 10.3 for England. Men continue to account for around three-quarters of suicide deaths.
The Check In With Your Mate campaign is particularly poignant at this time of year, when money or family worries, grief or loneliness are among issues which may feel intensified over the Christmas and new year period.
The sports clubs have been reaching out to fans and followers on their social media accounts to spread the campaign’s messages in the run-up to, and around, Christmas, with support from the public health teams at Leeds City Council and Bradford Council.
Leeds Rhinos player Jack Sinfield (pictured below right) said: “All the players and the club as a whole are proud to support this campaign and share the messages far and wide.
“We need to do all we can to encourage more conversations around mental health – particularly among men – to help break the stigma and potentially save lives.
“Please check in with a mate. You could help someone who might otherwise be struggling alone.”
As well as sharing on social media channels, Keighley Cougars (pictured below right) will also be promoting the campaign at their Boxing Day match against Oldham, when players will warm up in Check In With Your Mate-branded T-shirts and campaign flyers will be distributed to fans at the turnstiles.
Kaue Garcia, Keighley Cougars’ Managing Director, said: “We’re always keen to support this vital campaign and are pleased to be able to help increase awareness over the festive period.
“We’re expecting some 2,000 fans to our Boxing Day match so will be sharing the messages as much as we can.
“We would urge everyone to check in with their mates, particularly at this time of year. It’s so important to take the time to reach out to those around you and show them it’s ok to talk”.
A range of resources has been created for the Check In With Your Mate campaign, including graphics for social media posts, website banners and posters, encouraging all to help spread the word.
Developed by and featuring local men, from their experiences, messages on the graphics include: ‘Is your sporty mate suddenly off his game?’, ‘Does your mate always want to have one too many?’ and ‘Has the mate who’s always got something to say gone quiet?’
Rob Webster, CEO for NHS West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board and CEO Lead for WY HCP, said: “You don’t need to have all the answers and by simply being there and listening, you are creating a space where people know it’s ok to talk.
“Please have those conversations and help spread the word with our campaign resources, which signpost to the most up-to-date support for those in need across West Yorkshire.”
Highlighting the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, he added: “We know that households are struggling with financial worries at the moment and this could be heightened with Christmas pressures. We want everyone to be aware of the support that is available and to reach out if they feel they need it.”
The call to action comes as WY HCP’s parallel campaign to recruit Suicide Prevention Champions surpasses its initial sign-up target ahead of schedule.
The campaign launched around World Suicide Prevention Day (Sept 10th), encouraging people to register as Suicide Prevention Champions to learn more and take an active role in challenging stigma and raising awareness.
The initial aim was to recruit 281 Champions by the end of the year - one for each of the 281 people whose deaths were registered as suicides in West Yorkshire’s coroners’ courts in 2021 – but the total currently stands at 301 with a couple of weeks still to go.
Richard James, acting public health consultant and suicide prevention lead at WY HCP, said: “It’s incredible to have passed our ambitious target of 281 Champions already and I’d like to thank everyone who has signed up and joined the cause.
“We’d love to keep the momentum building and keep these numbers growing - to see more and more people join our mission to lower the suicide rate in West Yorkshire.
“Suicide is preventable – it is not inevitable.
“By learning more about what we can all do to help break stigma, raise awareness, recognise signs and have conversations, we can work together to help create a world where fewer people die by suicide.
“These are skills we can all learn and develop so please join the 301 people so far and sign up as a Suicide Prevention Champion. You might just save a life.”
For more on the Suicide Prevention Champion campaign, visit https://suicidepreventionwestyorkshire.co.uk/becomeachampion.
Visit https://suicidepreventionwestyorkshire.co.uk for up to date support across West Yorkshire as well as the latest suicide prevention news, resources and available training.