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Johnny Nelson
Johnny Nelson

Boxer lends his weight to help prevent suicide

8 September 2017

A famous boxer and former world champion is supporting a campaign in Sheffield to help prevent suicide.

Johnny Nelson, who held the WBO Cruiserweight title from 1999-2005 and is an ambassador for Sheffield Mind, is encouraging people to speak out about their mental health, especially men.

He said: “I know from personal experience how mental health issues can affect someone, to the point where things got so bad for me that I considered throwing in the towel.

“I have always encouraged men to talk about their issues, particularly in my profession where men don’t open up about how they are feeling. I campaign for greater mental health awareness and am willing to admit that talking about my feelings to people that I trusted was crucial in my recovery.

“You have to be strong to admit when you need help, talking doesn’t mean you are weak it just means that you want to get better.”

Nelson joins Sheffield City Council and other local organisations in encouraging people to talk about their mental health, in a campaign that starts on World Suicide Prevention day, 10 September. Suicide is the biggest killer in men under the age of 50, with 4,997 men committing suicide in 2015 alone.

A local family who set up a support charity after their son’s suicide in 2015, joins them. Suzanne McAllister, from S11 area, said: “Dan was coming up to his final exams at university, he was intelligent, popular and sociable. Even when we asked him, he never admitted to feeling stressed.

“The days before he died, Dan seemed happy; he was looking forward to coming home and his plans for the summer.

“It’s difficult to put in to words how we felt in the days and months after Dan’s death, anger, confusion, guilt, but underlying was a devastating sadness, and the struggle to accept our new ‘reality’.

“We set up SToRMS to help young people, men in particular, to open up about how they are feeling and to seek help. We are creating a strong support system in the community to help others like Dan who don’t show the classic signs, do not access mental health services, and yet may be at risk of suicide.

“It has been a way for us to keep Dan alive and try to do something positive in his name.”

Sheffield City Council’s Suicide Prevention campaign can be seen around the city on local advertising boards and in football club match day programmes. Teams of council officers and NHS staff will be outside the Town Hall on Wednesday 13 September handing out information and advice on the support that is available.

Councillor Cate McDonald, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care at Sheffield City Council, said: “Mental health affects all of us and one in four people will suffer problems at any one time.

“It’s so important to speak out about how you’re feeling, and we want to break any stigma around this and make conversations about our mental wellbeing part of our normal life.

“If you’re having problems or feeling low, please tell someone. Or if you know someone who feels down, then please don’t be afraid to ask them how they’re doing – this can and really does help.”

For support, call Samaritans on Freephone 116123. Information about wider support available in Sheffield can be found at www.sheffieldmentalhealth.org.uk

For more information on SToRMS visit their website www.stormsdmc.org and their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheDanMcAllisterFoundation/

Tweet your support and look out for information online on the following hashtags: #StayAlive #SuicidePrevention