University of Central Lancashire and the Mary O’Gara Foundation work together on World Mental Health Day to highlight the shocking fact 200 schoolchildren take their own lives every year
Talking about suicide can prevent it, so for that reason the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and the Mary O’Gara Foundation have set out 200 empty chairs on University Square in Preston, representing 200 schoolchildren who will never get a chance to go to university - raising awareness of this global public health emergency.
Twenty rows of ten empty school chairs, left in one of the most visible and utilised spaces of the university, will serve as a stark reminder on World Mental Health Day, today, for the need to talk about mental health, how we need to look after it, and how important it is to get help if you are struggling.
Papyrus, a charity which works to prevent suicide in young people, say more than 200 teenagers are lost to suicide every year. They work closely with the Mary O’Gara Foundation - a non-profit organisation dedicated to increasing awareness around mental ill-health and suicide prevention for young people.
The Foundation provides fully funded suicide prevention training to education and community institutions working with young people across Lancashire. It was set up by parents Sharon and Paul O’Gara in dedication of their daughter Mary.
Mary was working in the NHS and three months into a Degree Apprenticeship course at UCLan when she very sadly took her own life. To those around her, she was bright, popular, had a good circle of friends and a good job. But she struggled with depression. As the foundation strapline says: ‘Look beyond the smile’.
"The Foundation does this by offering and funding suicide prevention training for anyone working with young people in this area, be it schools, colleges, universities and employers who have a duty of care for young people"— Paul and Sharon O’Gara
Although only at UCLan for a short period, Mary was extremely popular with her lecturers and fellow students, and the university has vowed to do all it can to promote the campaign objectives of the Mary O’Gara Foundation.
Paul and Sharon O’Gara said: “Not long after losing Mary to suicide we knew that we needed to do something to ensure other families do not have to go through the same pain. For that reason, we decided to start the Mary O’Gara Foundation which aims to prevent suicide in young people across Lancashire.
“The Foundation does this by offering and funding suicide prevention training for anyone working with young people in this area, be it schools, colleges, universities and employers who have a duty of care for young people.
“It is vital that there are people in these settings who have the ability and skill set to spot and support a young person who may be in crisis.
“Partnering with UCLan and the amazing support we have received from the staff working with us on this campaign has been a major boost to our Foundation’s aims and has been extremely rewarding.”
As well as highlighting the issue on University Square, UCLan has also introduced a Mental Health Charter and new Mental Health Champion training.
"Suicide awareness raising and prevention is a leading priority for UCLan. We’re not afraid to talk about suicide, in fact we actively encourage our university community to have a conversation as we know talking about suicide can save lives"— Megan Blissett, UCLan Head of Student Support and Wellbeing Services
UCLan Head of Student Support and Wellbeing Services, Megan Blissett, said: “At UCLan we have a dedicated team of highly trained and experienced practitioners in mental health and wellbeing support. They deliver one to one and group support online and in person taking both a proactive and reactive approach.
“Positive mental health and wellbeing is central to life on all our campuses. Looking after ourselves and each other is vital to a healthy and successful university experience and is championed by all UCLan staff and students.
“Suicide awareness raising and prevention is a leading priority for UCLan. We’re not afraid to talk about suicide, in fact we actively encourage our university community to have a conversation as we know talking about suicide can save lives.
“As part of World Mental Health Day we have invited the Samaritans and Zero Suicide Alliance and Chasing the Stigma to have a presence on campus to enhance our internal support services. We would urge all staff and students to come along and join the conversation.”
If you, or someone you know, works directly with young people in Lancashire and wants to learn more about The Mary O’Gara Foundations’ Suicide Prevention Training programme, please contact the foundation for details.
UCLan also offers the following mental health support to all students:
- Student Support drop in, available Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm, for advice and guidance on mental health and wellbeing, finance, disability support, international student support and much more.
- A Counselling, Mental Health and Wellbeing service that students can refer themselves to, including for a series of up to six counselling sessions with a trained counsellor in person or on Teams. The team also works extremely closely in partnership with NHS and other statutory services, to ensure that students have the most appropriate support in place, at the right time.
- Suicide prevention training, available to all staff and students, which looks at spotting the signs and knowing how to talk to someone who might be feeling suicidal.
- 24/7 security on all our campuses for any emergency, with security staff all trained in responding to mental health and wellbeing concerns.