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Monday, October 11, 1999 Published at 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK


Keegan backs bid to cut suicides

Footballers are doing their bit to promote mental health

England manager Kevin Keegan and football clubs across the country are taking part in a campaign to reduce the number of young men who commit suicide.

The BBC's Health reporter Karen Allen : "In young men under 25, suicide rates has doubled over the past 15 years"
The aim is to reach out to the rising number of young men in England and Wales who consider suicide a way out of their problems.

Clubs including Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Middlesbrough are putting up posters in their grounds at the weekend.

[ image:  ]
They will show a young man being carried off the pitch by teammates with the words: "When he broke his ankle, his mates were gutted for him."

Another picture will show the same man sitting alone on a bench with the words: "When he tried to end it all, they didn't want to know."

Underneath the pictures is the message: "Mental distress. It happens. You can help by being there."

The campaign, co-ordinated by the Health Education Authority (HEA), is part of World Mental Health Day, which is marked around the globe on 10 October.


As well as the posters, 15,000 potential football stars at the Football Association's centres of excellence and football academies will be given cards which set out different ways of dealing with stress.

Several high-profile footballers have hit the headlines after having problems coping with the strains of superstardom.

The HEA wants to show that mental illness can affect anyone.

[ image: Kevin Keegan is supporting the mental health initiative]
Kevin Keegan is supporting the mental health initiative
Its campaign is supported by the Premier League, the Football Association, the Professional Football Association and former Scotland international Lou Macari, whose son committed suicide earlier this year.

Kevin Keegan said: "Young footballers need to be mentally fit to cope with everything that the modern game can throw at them.

"In general, I think it's important that we support any campaign to promote positive mental health and I wish the HEA every success with World Mental Health Day."

HEA mental health project manager, Elizabeth Gale, said: "Young men are increasingly aware of how important it is to keep physically fit, but they rarely turn their minds to their mental health."

She said keeping fit could help beat stress, but the ability to relax and to confide in friends was also important.

Targeting suicide

[ image:  ]
Suicide rates have been rising among young men in the UK in recent years.

In 1996, there were 4,917 suicides and undetermined deaths, 449 of them young men under 24.

In 1998, there were 5,357 such deaths, of which 545 were of young men.

Suicide is the second most common cause of death in young men after road accidents and accounts for 20% of all young people's deaths.

The government plans to reduce suicides by a fifth by 2010.

Health officials have been looking at innovative ways to reach men, who are generally less likely than women to seek help for health problems.

Projects include outreach work at pubs and clubs as well as football grounds.

Earlier this week, the government announced it was investing £250,000 in a football programme run by Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Football leagues will be set up in parts of the city with high teen pregnancy rates. Boys who enrol will get football coaching and meet Wolves players, but will also have to attend education sessions on health issues, such as sexual health and drugs.

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