A Wigan man has launched a campaign to teach youngsters about the options available to them when it comes to getting help with mental illness.
Peter Hill is organising the epic Pedal 2 Paris ride as a fund-raising campaign in memory of a close friend who took his own life.
He will set off for the French capital on July 21 to raise awarness mental health issues that affected his friend.
And ahead of the gruelling ride, the 32-year-old has been touring schools to teach youngsters about the importance of seeking help whenever mental health issues strike, with the help of the Wigan Warriors Community Foundation.
Peter said: “I’ve been running assemblies, in which I put out the message that it’s okay to not be okay, and to reach out to the people around you if you find you are struggling.”
“I told them my story, about how I was having a great year and having some fantastic experiences, and then this mega thing (his friend’s death) happened to me.”
Peter said it was important to teach young minds the vital step of understanding their own state of mind as well as others.
He said: “We give the key facts on what depression is and what mental health means.
“We have specifically spoken to Year 10s as they approached the first real pressure in their lives, of going through their GCSEs.
“We delivered the message that there’s a huge network around you, without you even having to go to a charity.
“You have friends, you have teachers, but if you can’t speak to them there are charities out there.”
Peter, a singer and DJ from Beech Hill, added: “The Warriors Foundation listened to my story and I told them I wanted to help integrate a more direct mental health message into their work.”
The borough has seen an alarming increase in suicide rates in recent years. Last year, a council report revealed that Wigan had a higher suicide rate than not only the North West, but the national average as well.
The borough’s suicide rate of 11.3 deaths per 100,000 people eclipsed the North West average of 10.1, whereas the national figure was 8.8.
Many believe these unsettling statistics could be rooted in people’s apprehension of speaking out.
Peter said: “Adults are afraid to talk about the subject. So if you speak to children in the right manner, they take the message on board early on that you can talk to people if you need help.”
For more information on Peter’s ride to Paris and how to get involved or donate, visit www.petesp2p.org.
For confidential support call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90, visit a local Samaritans branch or go to www.samaritans.org