Tributes have flooded in for a talented Dundee junior footballer who has tragically passed away.
Downfield FC player Ryan Blair, 25, was found dead in the morning on Hogmanay.
His mum Tracey Samson has paid tribute, describing the dad-of-one as “football daft”.
She added: “Football and his family were his world.”
The huge Glasgow Rangers fan was considered one of the best defenders at junior level in the city.
Hundreds of people who knew Ryan have spoken of their shock and sadness after hearing the news.
The jovial left-back played for various sides in the city including Broughty Athletic, Lochee United, and most recently Downfield.
His former clubs have paid tribute to the self-employed steel fixer who worked alongside brother Paul.
Friend Sean Donaldson, who is the club photographer and social media manager at Broughty Athletic, said Ryan was the “cheeky guy in the team”.
Sean, 47, said: “He was always up for a laugh. He was the guy tripping people up and throwing balls at the back of his team mate’s heads.
“He had such a great smile and was likeable and lovable. He was just such a great young laddie.
“He had his whole life ahead of him and will be tragically missed.”
He added Ryan was “probably the best left back in the city” at junior level.
“He should have been professional. I remember when he signed for us. The manager at Broughty, Keith Gibson, spotted his potential when he was playing for NCR Amateurs.
“He made the jump up and was just such a natural footballer. We knew straight away we had one of the hottest properties.”
Downfield Juniors paid tribute online, saying: “All at Downfield JFC are devastated to hear the sad news of defender Ryan Blair passing away. Although not long with the club Ryan became a treasured team mate and friend of all at the club. Our thoughts are with Ryan’s family.”
A spokesperson for Lochee United added: “Everyone at Lochee United are devastated to hear of the sudden passing of former player Ryan Blair.
“Ryan was a well respected teammate and friend to everyone associated with the club. Our thoughts are with his family at this extremely sad time. RIP Ryan…Thanks for the memories.”
He leaves behind mum Tracey, girlfriend Becky Wilson, six-year-old daughter Ava, brother Paul, and sisters Ellis and Grace.
He also leaves behind many friends at his former clubs including close pals Kevin Milne and Greig McNaughton.
He attended Brackens Primary School and St Paul’s RC Academy.
In-roads are being made after a controversial report outlined mental health provision in the city, say officials.
Latest data – published by the Scottish Social Services Council – revealed six exclusive mental health officers (MHOs) were employed across the region
As a result, Dundee City Council used nine other MHOs to provide cover in 2019.
Cover MHOs are determined as social workers who step in when no exclusive or non-exclusive MHOs are available.
“The amount of MHO work, if any, they do each week tends to be very small. They are very unlikely to have the job title Mental Health Officer,” the report added.
Fife, in comparison, had 14 exclusive MHOs and 29 non-exclusive MHOs.
Phil Welsh, whose son Lee took his own life in 2017, said the report was very disappointing.
“Considering that Dundee is the suicide capital of Europe this report is damning and shocking,” he said.
Phil, who is campaigning for a new mental health crisis centre, added: “Six dedicated MHO’s to cover a city with the highest suicide rate in mainland Scotland, is desperately inadequate.”
He added: “Dundee, the fourth largest city in Scotland is way down in the stats.
“Once again we have empirical evidence that Dundee is not being supported sufficiently when it comes to the recruitment, training and retention of mental health professionals.”
Dundee Labour councillor Richard McCready said the report showed there was a clear need to improve mental health services in Dundee.
He said: “Instead of an integrated approach we have a confused and patchy service.”
John Alexander said the report was eight months out of date – and when a current vacancy was filled, a full quota of 16 MHOs would be in place.
Three people were currently in training and would be added to the team “hopefully within a matter of months,” he added.
A Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership spokesman said: “Since the data was collected there has been a positive impact in this area of work due to an increase in capacity within the Mental Health Officer team, this has put us in a better position to meet demand.
“Our Mental Health Officers can and do provide out of hours services through contact from out of hours.”
The SSSC report also revealed a total of 249 weekly hours were spent on MHO work in Dundee compared to 334 in Aberdeen, 276 in Angus and 278 in Perth and Kinross.
And Dundee fared worse than 13 other local authority areas in Scotland for the number of mental health care hours it offers residents, with 16.7 hours per 10,000 of the population.
The Scottish average is 20.5 hours. In comparison Edinburgh has 19.6, Angus 23.7, and Glasgow city 17.2.
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.
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.”
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 was recently diagnosed with depression and it was nice to know that a stranger who is suffering the same mental health problems as myself and was kind enough to leave something small but it had a big impact on me.
“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.
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.
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.”
A grieving dad who lost his son to suicide has accused Tay Road Bridge bosses of putting “cost and inconvenience” before lives.
Phil Welsh, whose son Lee took his own life in 2017, has called for suicide prevention measures on the bridge.
But he was told barriers could not be installed due to the huge expense and significant traffic disruption the work would cause.
Phil, who is also campaigning for a 24/7 refuge centre in Dundee, said: “Every other day there are reports of people being present on the bridge and we are all very clear what their intentions are.
“I got in touch with Councillor Lynne Short, chairwoman of the Tay Road Bridge Board, and received a response which left me very concerned.”
In an email to Phil, seen by the Tele, Ms Short said engineering consultants had been approached last year about the implications of installing barriers.
“It is estimated that full design costs would be in the order of £250,000, with actual construction costs in the order of £8 million,” Ms Short wrote.
“To strengthen and install the barriers would be hugely disruptive and take in the order of one year, with the bridge reduced to single-lane traffic for this time (six months per side).
“It should also be noted that while such work might deter someone intent on harming themselves, it would in no way guarantee that they would not be able to.”
Phil accused officials of putting money before human life.
He said: “It would appear changes could be put in place to prevent people climbing over on to the other side of the walkway, but cost and inconvenience appear to supersede crisis.
“The saving of a single life should supersede these factors.”
Speaking to the Tele, Ms Short said: “We take the welfare of every bridge user, especially those who are vulnerable or in crisis, extremely seriously. Every single suicide is a human tragedy.
“We are acutely aware the Tay Road Bridge has become a focal point for people in crisis.
“The bridge manager and his team are dedicated to supporting vulnerable people who present at the bridge, backed by investment in new cameras in 2017 and a thorough training programme for all staff.
“Although bridge availability has been affected on many occasions to allow staff and police to deal with incidents, actual suicides are rare.
“Bridge staff regularly attend suicide prevention meetings to discuss how we all might contribute to suicide reduction across the region, and act on any new initiatives that are applicable to the bridge.
“Any physical measures introduced to the bridge have to be effective and while these might deter someone intent on harming themselves, it would in no way guarantee they would not be able to.
“What is critical is that people who are having suicidal thoughts have someone or somwhere they can turn to when these thoughts become overwhelming so that they do not get to the point of acting on them.”
Superintendent Graeme Murdoch of Police Scotland told the Tele that in the three months to the end of September this year, officers responded to 60 reports of concern for people on the bridge.
Last year, the Tay Road Bridge Joint Board published a Q&A explaining why suicide prevention measures had not been installed, saying barriers were “not practical” due to the 52-year-old structure being unable to support the additional weight.