New project to tackle male suicide in Leeds: “I stepped out in front of the number 13 bus that day wanting to end my life”

A GRANDFATHER From Leeds today courageously speaks out about his suicide attempt, when he stepped out in front of a bus in a bid to end his life.

Sunday, 14th July 2019, 9:32 am

Derek Green, 58, from Pudsey, told the Yorkshire Evening Post about the fateful day when he wanted to end it all: “I went to work that morning, but something upset me and I couldn’t think straight.

“I left work and was walking down the road in Hunslet and I started hitting myself with a walking stick, which broke. Then I started punching the wall I was so angry.

Former soldier Derek Brown, of Pudsey, told the YEP of his suicide bid when he walked in front of a bus intending to end his own life. He is backing the Manbassadors Project, to help tackle suicide in east Leeds.

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“Then I stepped out in front of the number 13 bus in Hunslet on that day - intent I wanted to leave everything behind - and a little old lady with white hair grabbed my arm and pulled me back.

“She put me on the bus and told me to go to the doctors. I didn’t think about dying or my family. I knew I just want to leave. That old lady undoubtedly saved my life.”

The former soldier rang the doctor but couldn’t get in for a week. He now attends support groups and tries to help others struggling with their mental health.

In Leeds alone, more than 70 men commit suicide every single year. That's more than one life lost each week.

Amy Driffield, co-owner of Shaftesbury Fisheries, Harehills Road, Leeds, is a Manbassador as she serves fish and chips, looking out for anyone struggling with their mental health.

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Today Derek, who is feeling positive and dealing with his depression, is backing a new ground breaking support network - called Manbassadors - which is tackling high rates of male suicide in east Leeds.

It comes as the YEP continues to campaign for positive mental health in the #SpeakYourMind campaign, which has won widespread praise and support.

First launched in 2016, it aims to raise awareness of mental health issues and combat the stigma that sometimes still surrounds them.

Damian Dawtry, of the Feel Good Factor, who is running the Manbassadors Project.

Despite still being a taboo subject for many, suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 living in the UK, with isolated, white, men living in deprived areas more likely than anyone else to feel suicidal and act upon it.

Damian Dawtry, project manager for Manbassadors, said: “We all know someone or know of someone who has taken their own life. Sadly, I do too.

“If you give men permission to speak they will open up.

“We provide the Manbassadors with information targeting men about social activities, places to go, health and leisure, people to talk to.”

Manbassador Amy Driffield, co-owner of Shaftesbury Fisheries, with Damian Dawtry from Feel Good Factor (left) and Tim Spink from Space 2 (right), who manage the Manbassadors Project. 12th July 2019. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

This partnership project with Space 2 and Zest, who are members of the Orion Partnership along with Feel Good Factor, is being funded by Leeds City Council Public Health department and supported by Leeds Community Foundation and will continue for the remainder of 2019.

Damian, who works for the Feel Good Factor in Chapeltown, added: “There are many men who are not receiving the support they need and we hope we can reach them and start making a positive impact on the terrible rate of male suicides in Leeds.

“Manbassadors are not required to take time away from their business to attend courses, or take on any other responsibility. Some of the health advocates already keep an eye out anyway and are glad to help.”

He said there were five areas in Leeds that had higher suicide rates. They are: LS13, LS12, LS11, LS10 and LS9.

According to the Leeds Suicide Strategy, in Leeds 55 per cent of the people who took their own life lived in the most deprived 40 per cent of the city.

Former soldier Derek Brown, of Pudsey, told the YEP of his suicide bid when he walked in front of a bus intending the end his own life. He is backing the Manbassadors Project, to help tackle suicide in east Leeds.

“The Suicide Grant, which funds this project, has decided to focus on the five areas with the most suicides, with LS9 being one of them.

“Separation, being White British and male are three other key factors,” said Damian.

Meanwhile, the latest round of grants for suicide prevention work in some of the most at risk areas have been awarded.

Leeds City Council is giving out £70,000 a year in small grants and is targeting social activities for men to reduce social isolation and is working closely with Leeds Community Foundation.

Councillor Rebecca Charlwood, Leeds City Council executive member for Adults, Health and Wellbeing, said: "Reducing suicide, attempted suicide and self-harm across Leeds is an absolute priority.

“Sadly, we know that nationally men are over three times more likely to take their own life and so we are committed to supporting higher-risk groups to live happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives and make a difference in communities where it is most needed.”

Meet the fish shop Manbassador of Harehills

The Manbassador Project is reaching out to isolated or lonely men in east Leeds - particularly LS9 - to support their mental health.

They use bite sized support, available from familiar faces in more than 20 venues including a barbers, take-aways, chemists and a gym.

The chosen health advocates act as lookouts to spot signs of isolation, loneliness or men who are struggling with life.

And they are already making an impact.

Shaftesbury Fisheries, on Harehills Lane, is one of the chosen Manbassador venues.

The popular fish and chip shop may have been serving chips for more than 60 years, but they are perfectly suited to the role.

Amy Driffield, 33, co-owner of the fish shop, said: “We heard about the project and thought it was a great idea so we jumped on board.

“Being here every day serving food we get to know the community well, so it is easy to keep an eye open for anyone who is struggling.

“We already have an established relationship with customers. Some just come in for a chat but we have lots of regulars.

“One older man in his 80s, whose wife died a month ago, has been at his wits’ end. I spoke to him and suggested some things he could try and I am pleased to say he seems much happier and now goes to Harehills Mens Club, which offers support for anyone isolated.

“The Manbassadors idea really makes sense for people who are already in the heart of the community to help out.”

Led by Feel Good Factor, the project is a growing network of local businesses acting as men’s health advocates in East Leeds.

Help is available:

Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email [email protected], in confidence

Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and won't show up on your bill

Andy's Man Club: [email protected]

PAPYRUS: A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141

Mind: A charity offering support and advice for people with mental health problems. Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling unhappy. Helpline: 0800 58 58 58 or www.thecalmzone.netMindOut: Provide support and advice on mental health for members of LGBTQ communities. Phone 01273 234839

Former soldier Derek Brown, of Pudsey, told the YEP of his suicide bid when he walked in front of a bus intending the end his own life. He is backing the Manbassadors Project, to help tackle suicide in east Leeds. Picture: Tony Johnson