Some of the biggest names in football have vowed to do more to understand and talk about suicide. 

Pep Guardiola, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Sir Alex Ferguson and Mark Hughes have all backed an initiative in Greater Manchester that they hope will prompt a nationwide discussion about helping prevent people from taking their own lives.

Suicide is now the biggest killer of men under the age of 50 in the UK.

Former Manchester United striker and ex-Manchester City manager Mark Hughes said that football reflected wider society and previously not enough has been done to understand or support people who are struggling to cope.

“We just need more knowledge,” he said.

“We need greater empathy and more understanding of how we cast a shadow sometimes as managers when we make decisions and I think it is really important so we can all improve our emotional intelligence and if we do that I think we will be better served recognising when people are struggling.

“I have had teammates that have struggled with mental health and teammates who have lost their lives to suicide as well and it’s very difficult.

“It is about knowing the right words to use and having that toolkit to understand how you can help someone who is struggling.”

The Shining A Light On Suicide campaign aims to raise awareness of the issue at a time when the pandemic has exacerbated people’s mental health struggles for a range of reasons.

The League Managers Association is backing the initiative that also offers 20-minute training sessions for anyone who feels they might benefit from being better informed and better equipped to help someone with the right words of advice.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “One in five of us will experience suicidal thoughts so it is absolutely a space for football to get in and lead.

“It is amazing that in some ways that we don’t address it more, we skirt around it and that must change.

“Everybody who is a manager, in whatever walk of life, really it is their responsibility to take the training because the way in which those managers have conversations with people in the workplace does effect what might happen afterwards.”

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is also backing the campaign and said: “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.”

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK

(c) Sky News 2021: ‘Talking could help save a life’: Football managers back Shining A Light On Suicide campaign

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