The mother of a Salford man who killed himself whilst on suicide watch is urging people to ‘fight the stigma’ and discuss mental health.

Speaking publicly for the first time about the tragedy, Pam Higgins, 57 from Swinton has opened up about the death of her son, Anthony Higgins, who took his own life 10 years ago whilst being treated in the Meadowbrook Mental Health Unit at Salford Royal Hospital.

Credit: Lucy Clayton

Pam said: “I just couldn’t believe I was never going to see him again, that I was never going to talk to him again, that I was never going to have a phone call again. One of the last things he said to me was ‘I’m so glad you’re my mum’ but it still didn’t stop him from doing what he did.

“This is why people need to talk about their mental health, even when they are ill and they know they are suffering, I think they feel that they are going to be judged. Especially with men, they get this persona that they are supposed to be big, tough and strong… when they’re not.”

At 17-years-old, Anthony began to show signs that he was struggling with his mental health. He was first admitted to the Meadowbrook Mental Health Unit aged 22 and spent several years in and out of hospital receiving help and guidance.

A year before Anthony’s death, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Despite being on medication for his condition, Anthony killed himself three days after his 29th Birthday.

Pam added: “We all talk about Anthony’s death as a family, it really does help and even when he was poorly, we were all there for him, we all used to support him but you don’t ever fully understand what they are going through.”

Credit: Pam Higgins

More than 200 people a year take their own life in Greater Manchester. Last year, the highest rates of suicide were in both Bolton and Salford with 31 people taking their own lives.

The Salford based mental health charity, Start, run the ‘Inspiring Minds‘ service to help people who suffer with mental health conditions. They use creativity to help vulnerable people from all walks of life to improve their skills and gain in confidence.

To mark World Mental Health Day last Thursday, their Reach Out: Start to End Suicide campaign displayed 126 yellow flags outside of the Swinton Civic Centre – each flag represented a life lost to suicide in Salford over the last five years.

Start Project Manager Dennis Baldwin explained: “It’s about presenting the scale of the lives lost to suicide in Salford but it also helps to instigate conversations and break down the stigma surrounding suicide.”

Credit: Lucy Clayton

Pam said she was touched by the campaign. She added: “I thought it was lovely, I actually drove past and thought I wonder if one of those is for my Anthony. I know of two 15 year old girls that are friends with my granddaughter and my nieces that have killed themselves in the last 12 months.

“It’s so sad that children feel like that’s the only way out and its not… there is a very true saying about death doesn’t hurt the people, its the people that they leave behind that it kills.”

Credit: Lucy Clayton

The NHS website says that if you’re feeling like you want to die, it’s important to tell someone.There are free helplines available 24 hours a day to help when you are feeling down. The Samaritans is just one of several which you can call on 116 123.

The Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust website provides further information on suicide prevention and dealing with grief after losing a loved one to suicide.

Just a few of the locations you can find suicide and mental health support are displayed on the above map.

Lead Image Credit: Lucy Clayton

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