Kilmarnock host 'Talk a Good Game' event aimed at suicide prevention

Kilmarnock host 'Talk a Good Game' event aimed at suicide prevention

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Scottish Rugby supported Kilmarnock Rugby Club and Grange Rugby to host 13 teams from the Ayrshire region at the ‘Talk a Good Game’ event on Thursday 16 May 2019.

The event was designed to make steps towards preventing suicide in young people and was organised by local maths teacher and Head of Grange Rugby, Jamie Houston.

Houston has experienced one current pupil and three ex-pupils take their lives and wanted to tackle the issue in a proactive way. He said, “About 30 young people in the Ayrshire area, mostly male, have taken their lives in the last two years, which is obviously a horrendous statistic.

“I’m not silly enough to think that one event is going to make a massive difference but doing nothing isn’t going to help.

“I feel that sports folk are in a really good position to promote mental health and talk about their feelings.

Former Scotland Captain Al Kellock and current Glasgow Warrior’s player Chris Fusaro got the event underway, talking about the importance of good mental health and opening up.

Rugby matches took places throughout the day, with Marr collecting both trophies. Participants attended a number of workshops, focusing on drugs, gambling, sexuality and bullying.

The poignancy of the day wasn’t lost on anyone who attended, as the teams contested for touch and contact trophies in memory of two local members who had taken their lives in the previous two years.

The touch competition was in memory of Calum King, who took his own life in 2017, while the contact the version was dedicated to 15-year old Liam McGhee who passed last year.

Jamie Houston added: “In 2018, Liam took his own life and it was an honour to be asked to speak at his funeral, it was an honour to contribute something for Liam’s friends, family and team-mates by sharing some funny stories. That day, I decided to start working towards preventing suicides.”

Liam’s dad Ray McGhee said: “It’s absolutely great. Standing there earlier, seeing the stand full with kids and you can see they’re still all shy when you ask them questions but that’s just what teenagers do, and it’s just trying to prompt them, that it doesn’t have to be a big chat if there is a problem, it can be a text message to Breathing Space, and someone will reply back to them.

“Opening up takes a bit of a burden off ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, as they say.”

Liam’s mother Jaqueline Malone said, “This is our first time down here cheering on the Grange without Liam taking part, and it hurts and really emotional, it’s just not right. Kids just need to talk and share because living life without Liam is just an existence.”

Scottish Rugby’s Glasgow South Regional Manager Alan Falconer said at the conclusion of the day, “Events like ‘Talk a Good Game’ are vital to the support that we provide young people in the region, the combination of rugby activity, mental health and education along with sharing life experiences with the main focus on suicide prevention.”

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