‘Don’t let other Doncaster families have to grieve like mine for their sons’
Nicholas Chadwick was just like any other young man from Doncaster.
He was popular, and well known for his sense of humour and his jokes. He loved his football, and was a keen fan of Sheffield Wednesday.
But one day early last year, his family was rocked by his death, at the age of just 41.
He had taken his own life.
His aunt, Jayne Desmier, remembers the glowing tributes at his funeral to a young man who liked to laugh. She remembers the blue and white flowers, in honour of his favourite team.
Most of all, she remembers Nicholas.
Nicholas took his own life. It came like a bolt from the blue for all the people who knew him.
Jayne, aged 57, from Edenthorpe, said: “He was a lovely, a really caring person. His great sense of humour came across at the funeral.
But when he died in January 2018, it was completely out of the blue. It was sudden and unexpected. There had been no clues that anything was wrong.
“It was devastating for all the family. It is safe to say it has been a massive struggle. It was nearly 18 months ago, and that's not long. He was a much loved member of our family.”
Male suicide is regarded by health officials in Doncaster as a major issue.
The most recent figures available from public health officials reveal that 33 people killed themselves in Donaster in 2017, and officials say three quarters of those who take their own lives are male. But Jayne feels these people are not just statistics – they are people just like Nicholas with people who loved them.
And after finding more out about the issue, Jayne is now spearheading a drive to encourage more young men who find themselves in Nicholas’ position to seek help.
She started the project after meeting pal Sally Clarke, whose brother Peter, also killed himself.
Jayne said: “As a result of losing Nicholas, I wanted to raise awareness of mental health in men, and the importance of men talking about mental health issues. I think men internalise what they feel. Perhaps it is the macho image and the stiff upper lip idea, the idea that you have to be the strong, joking one.
“But talking about a problem can help deal with it. There is support out there, and we want to raise awareness of that to stop other families having to go through the same.”
The work has now led to a film, from Doncaster film maker James Lockey, with words by the performance poet JB Barrington, aimed at helping to encourage men to seek help, and a campaign which is also involving public health bosses.
Jayne was moved when she saw the film which her campaign had led to, which is part of a broader campaign, called Another Way, running across the borough to tackle the issues.
There will be beer mats in pubs across the borough providing information about the video.
She said: I was choked when I saw the video – it moved me to tears. It is a fitting tribute to Nicholas and Peter.
“There’s never a day we don’t think of my nephew. We want people to realise that it is OK to talk to someone, and to know that there is help out there – you can come out against on the other side.”
‘Were targeting zero suicides’
Doncaster Council’s director of public health, Dr Rupert Suckling, fears worries about issues like money, work and family breakdown has made it harder for people with mental health problems to cope in recent years.
Now he said the authority has targeted reducing the annual suicide in the borough from between 30 and 35 to zero.
He said: “People used to think suicide was a consequence of mental heath problems like schizophrenia or depression. That may still be a contributor, but what we’re seeing is people with concerns about hopelessness, debts, relationship breakdowns. loss of jobs. Two thirds of people who kill themselves have had no contact with mental health services, and no one knew there was an issue causing them problems.
“That’s why we want to raise awareness that it’s OK to talk.”
He said the Another Way campaign would also see health officials working with schools and family doctors to raise awareness of the issues.
The council’s own Suicide Prevention Plan, which was discussed by councillors in December, showed middle-aged men classed as ‘White British’ were more likely to take their own life in Doncaster than any other demographic.
Figures revealed there were 429 recorded suicides in Doncaster between 2002 and 2017 - the latest figure of 33 in 2017 was the highest number for 15 years.
A detailed audit focusing between 2015 and 2017 found 64 people took their own life - 100 per cent were classed as ‘White British’, 84 per cent were men and 27 per cent were aged between 51 and 60.
The report said the location of suicides across Doncaster between 2015 and 2018 had been mapped against the ‘index of multiple deprivation’ showing ‘higher incidents in urban centres and areas of higher deprivation’.
Extra £1.8 million for dealing with suicides issue
NHS bosses are spending an extra £1.8 million on dealing with the issue of suicide this year, says the head of strategy and delivery for adult mental health at the Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group, Stephen Emmerson.
He said the NHS sees its role as looking at how different sectors can work in partnership with the NHS, including organisations like the Samaritans, as well as local businesses.
Among the areas that will be addressed with the extra money will be extra staff for mental health crisis response work, and for home treatment.
There will also be a new psychiatric decision unit set up as an alternative option to people attending the emergency department at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, or the police detaining people under the mental health act.
That is expected to open in November.
He said: “It is up to us to make sure pathways work, and to work with the NHS, and charitable and volunteer groups.”
Businesses back campaign
Cafe owners Rachel Savage and James Whitehouse are among the first businesses to sign up to back the Another Way campaign.
James, aged 38, recently opened the Bake, Battle and Roll cafe, on Wood Street in Doncaster town centre. It mixes board games with a cafe.
James worked in mental health for 20 years at a hospital in Bedford, and wants to help anyone with problems in Doncaster. On Sunday his venue will stage a board game event from 2pm until 4pm for people to come and talk. It is one of a series of events aimed at providing activities for people to try while talking to someone in a relaxed environment about feelings or emotions.
He said: “You may not want to talk to someone if you’re feeling low. I’ve found starting playing board games, you can find yourself talking to someone again.
“We want people to feel they can come here and feel supported. My background is good for getting people talking if there’s something bothering them. We’ll always be happy to play a game with someone if they want a chat.”
The Leopard, on West Street, is also staging an Another Way event, from 12noon until 2pm on Saturday, a FIFA video game tournament.
Who to call
The Another Way campaign is backed by the Samaritans.
Volunteer David Townend, based at the charity’s base on Thorne Road, attended the launch.
He said he urged anyone who needed help to call the Samaritans on 116123, the charity’s free telephone number.
He said: “We get calls about all sorts of things – relationships, debt, anything that is troubling anyone. We are there to listen, and we are constantly busy. We always have someone willing to listen and we have a list of organisations we can signpost people to for other help.”
Vanessa Ford, director of the Doncaster Samaritans, added: “We know men can sometimes find it really hard to admit they are having trouble coping and reluctant to seek help.”