Heartbroken Wigan mum's quest to end stigma of suicide

David Edwards-Gill
David Edwards-Gill

The mother of a Wigan teenager who took his own life is making the most of World Mental Health Day to help “eliminate the stigma of suicide”.

Lisa Edwards was hosting a sponsored walk on Wednesday evening in a bid to raise funds and awareness for Papyrus UK, a national suicide prevention charity which has services in Wigan.

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The charity event set off from The Boar’s Head in Standish at 6pm in memory of Lisa’s son David Edwards-Gill, who tragically died in October 2016.

The 16-year-old died by suicide after suffering with mental health problems. It was a harrowing moment which sent Lisa “into an abyss of grief”.

But Lisa has used her heartbreak as a driving force to help Papyrus with their work, and to get more people talking about how to prevent suicide - the biggest killer of men and women under the age of 35 in the UK.

She said: “Suicide prevention is something people don’t always talk about, because of the stigma associated. People are very ashamed sometimes to say someone they know has died by suicide.

“People being stigmatised is what drives the silence. What we need to do is break that silence so it gets raised in the public profile.”

She also said: “We talk about cancer, we talk about heart disease, and we are just beginning to talk about mental health - we still have a long way to go with this. Why do we not talk about suicide?

“No-one thinks that their lives will be touched by suicide, but the reality is that it can touch any one of us at any time. Suicide does not discriminate by gender, race or religion. It takes anyone and unfortunately, I know this from personal experience.”

For the past year, Lisa has also been volunteering for Papyrus to help put their work in the spotlight.

“When I lost my son, one thing I wanted to do was try to help other parents and families not to go through what I go through everyday,” she said.

“Not only does the person who dies by suicide lose their life, those who love them, family and friends, are devastated too. I know this only too well.

“When David died, I entered into an abyss of grief. One that I try to cope with every day. A piece of me died with him. My broken heart will never heal.”

Lisa also said the language used when discussing the issue was a very important factor.

She said: “David did not ‘commit’ suicide. Suicide is not a crime. It hasn’t been a ‘crime’ in this country 1961.”

Lisa’s sponsored walk has already raised nearly £1,000 for Papyrus, but more importantly, she hopes the event will get people feeling comfortable enough to talk about what is, sadly, a taboo subject for too many people.

The walk will set off from the Boar’s Head pub at 6pm this evening, and will last around one hour.

All are welcome to attend.

You can donate at justgiving.com/preventionofyoungsuicide-lisaedwards.

Visit papyrus-uk.org to find out more about their support services.

The Samaritans are available to listen at any time. Ring the free 24/7 helpline on 116123 or 01942 492 222.