Mum of Dundee student who took his own life speaks about her ‘gentle’ son

Mum of Dundee student who took his own life speaks about her ‘gentle’ son

In early 2018 the friends and family of Conor Steel were left heartbroken when they learned the 24-year-old had taken his own life.

The Abertay University gaming student had been racked with severe depression for most of his adolescence and adult life.

But despite this it still came as a massive shock to those who knew him when he was found by a friend in his student accommodation in Dundee.

Now his mum, Frances Beck and university friends, are working hard in his name to ensure that no other young person feels so alone again that they feel there is no other way out.

In particular the city charity Feeling Strong, run exclusively by young people for young people is launching its Mind, Body and Goal campaign on January 2nd.

Although aimed at every young person it will be focusing particularly on boys and young men, because they are generally speaking less likely to be open about their mental health problems.

Stephanie Carney, a fourth year student at Abertay, and close friend of Conor is Feeling Strong’s campaign and lobbying lead.

Stephanie Carney is behind a mental health support group for students at Abertay.

The 23-year-old psychology and counselling student said: “Conor’s death was dreadful.

“It left us all heartbroken. It was at that time that his mum and I decided to do everything we could to provide support for other young people.

“We didn’t know how to go about it initially but in November last year  Feeling Strong was developed, led by Brook Marshall.

“We have been involved with many young people ever since and although we couldn’t provide counselling we point people in the right direction.”

Stephanie added: “It’s a very sad fact that young men are much less likely than young women to speak about their mental health worries.

“Our latest campaign is aimed at getting the message across the boys that it is okay to ask for help.

“Conor had tried to ask for help. He did go to the doctor but he was just given medication.

“What he really needed was someone to  listen to him.”

Conor’s mum, Frances, said that while she had been aware that her son had gone through many difficult times with depression while growing up she believed that when he came to Dundee to study gaming he had really turned a corner and was happy and felt at home in the city.

“His course was going well and he had made a lot of good, like-minded friends.

“He was the happiest I had ever seen him.”

Frances said that when Conor was at  school he was an easy target for bullies with his gentle nature, red hair and glasses.

He struggled through his primary years  and things became even worse when he went to secondary  school in his hometown in Stewarton in Ayrshire.

While he was in Dundee Conor went to the doctor to talk about his worries.

She said: “He was given medication and when that didn’t work he was given more stronger medication and basically sent away and told to get on with it.

“I have no doubt Conor would have benefited from being educated about mental health and how to effectively cope with that stress.

“His story could have been so very different if he’d had that support at that key stage of his life.

“Had his mental health problems been prevented or had he been given targeted early intervention support, it’s highly unlikely that he would have taken his own life.”

She added: “It’s important for schools to involve children and young people in leading their peers in mental health programmes to encourage them to support each other and help break down the stigma surrounding mental health.

“Schools should also embed a system of regularly measuring the levels of wellbeing of the whole school community to identify problems at an early stage.

“Support should be provided by mental health support workers who work within each school community.

“Heartbreakingly, none of this will bring back my son, but it will go a long way in ensuring that the lives of other young people are not so tragically ended.”

 

Link to Evening Telegraph article here 

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Suicide prevention notes make a different as Dundee mum has first success story

Suicide prevention notes make a different as Dundee mum has first success story

A young mum’s bid to bring happiness to someone’s day has had its first major success.

Sophie McCutcheon, 23, from Lochee, struggles with crippling depression and has recently set about helping others in a similar situation.

Just a couple of weeks ago Sophie launched her Love from a Stranger project,

This saw her leaving dozens of inspirational notes around Dundee for those in need.

Now Sophie has spoken out about the first message she has received from a recipient of one of her notes.

The message to Sophie was from someone who also suffers severely from depression.

It said: “I found one of your cards last week. I found it on one of my really bad days.

“I’ve kept it in my memory box to look at when I do have a dark day.

“Just to know that there are people out there that care, and that I can get through this..

“So thank you from the bottom of my heart. I took it as a sign from my loved ones up above that I can keep going.”

Sophie said: “It was incredible to receive the message.

“I  couldn’t be prouder of this achievement.

“It really warmed my heart to know that I was able to help someone who is in the same situation as my own.

“Something as small as my notes of kindness really can make a difference, and knowing that it did have such a big impact on them is the reason why I am doing this.

“I really hope they can lift the spirits of those who need them.”

Sophie’s project began as a result of her own 10-year battle with depression and anxiety.

She recently began her blog The Devious Mind which she hopes will be her own place of sanctuary that could help others.

 

Link to Evening Telegraph article here 

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Tay Bridge bosses to look again at suicide prevention measures for the crossing

Tay Bridge bosses to look again at suicide prevention measures for the crossing

Tay Road Bridge bosses will look again at ways of adding suicide prevention measures to the crossing.

Councillor Stewart Hunter said he was prepared to once more raise concerns with fellow board members over people heading to the bridge in times of crisis.

The move is in response to criticism from mental health campaigner Phil Welsh, whose son Lee took his own life in 2017.

Phil Welsh with a photo of Lee.

Mr Welsh had accused bridge bosses of putting money before lives, after Tay Road Bridge chairwoman Lynne Short claimed an engineers’ report showed the “cost and inconvenience” of installing barriers was too prohibitive.

Mr Hunter, who preceded Ms Short as chairman, then wrote a letter to the Tele saying that finance “has never been a consideration with regards to adding barriers”.

He said: “The issue is that the bridge cannot support the additional weight and therefore it would compromise the integrity of the structure.”

In a letter to Mr Hunter, Mr Welsh said: “I would like to be provided with the commissioned engineering report which states that barriers cannot be put in place as this may compromise the structural integrity of the bridge.

“I would appreciate that at the next board meeting there is a very specific discussion in regard to what provision can be put in place as a means to deter people in crisis presenting themselves on the wrong side of the walkway.

“A view from engineers will simply not suffice.

“The public is demanding a commissioned survey to determine if remedial work can be carried out to strengthen the bridge, which in turn would enable physical deterrents to be installed.”

Mr Hunter said: “I will raise the issues again at the next meeting of the Tay Bridge Board.”

 

By Lindsey Hamilton

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Grieving Dundee dad accuses Tay Bridge bosses of putting a price on people’s lives

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Hundreds back petition calling for action to make Tay Road Bridge safer

Hundreds back petition calling for action to make Tay Road Bridge safer

Hundreds of people have signed a petition calling for action to make the Tay Road Bridge safer for people who are thinking of ending their lives.

An online petition demanding measures are put in place to make it harder for people to consider using the bridge to take their own lives.

The Change.org petition has amassed nearly 400 signatures at time of writing, with a target of 500.

It calls for measures such as barriers to be installed in protect vulnerable people.

Michael Low started the petition after a friend took their own life.

He said: “My personal mission is to take this to the authorities.

“The fact is there needs to be higher fencing or other materials or methods to ensure that the Tay Road Bridge is no longer available in a person’s hour of distress.”

The petition has been backed by Phil Welsh, who lost his son Lee to suicide in August 2017.

Phil said: “The bridge needs to be looked at with the evidence that things like barriers can’t be put in place.

“As well as supporting the petition, I have sent a letter to the bridge board asking about protections on the bridge. I haven’t heard anything back yet.

“We’re just trying to keep the conversation going as much as we can because there’s a lot more that can be done to help people in need.

“We’ve also been campaigning for a 24-hour crisis centre, like in Edinburgh.

“I do think they should look at what can be done at the bridge, with barriers being a big one. If it is the case that they can’t put barriers in place then that’s fine, but I would like to see evidence supporting that.

“All routes should be followed before making a decision.

“The grassroots support should be there to help people before they get to that stage, but there should still be something at the bridge.”

Officials from the Tay Road Bridge Joint Board have examined such measures and ultimately decided it was not feasible to make any substantial changes to the bridge’s structure.

The bridge deck cantilevers — long beams or girders commonly used in bridge construction — would be unable to support additional barriers because of the strain windy weather would put on them, it has been claimed.

Board vice-chairman Jonny Tepp said the bridge management are actively looking at ways to make the bridge safe.

“They do their best to make themselves aware of what action can be taken,” the Liberal Democrat councillor for Tay Bridgehead said.

Dundee City Council also launched an online campaign last month highlighting where people can go for support if they are having suicidal thoughts.

If you need help, or need someone to talk to, a Samaritans volunteers can help.
Contact them on 116 123, or email jo@samaritans.org.

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