Wigan mum's lasting tribute to 'lovely' son and others who died by suicide
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Sam Leiper was just 22 when he was found dead in July 2015, a week after he had been reported missing.
It was a huge shock for his family, including his mum Debby Leiper, who describes her oldest son as “lovely”.
The past eight years have been difficult for her – as well as her husband Andrew and their younger son Josh – as they come to terms with their loss.
But Debby found support from other mothers bereaved by suicide in a Facebook group and Karen Caffrey, who founded The One House in Aspull after her son took his own life.
She has also been involved with EPiC HOPE, an organisation set up in Wigan earlier this year offering support to people struggling with their mental health, and she took part in the Wigan Walk For Hope on World Suicide Prevention Day in September.
Debby, who lives in Standish, has long been thinking of creating some kind of tribute for Sam and other people who have died by suicide, but struggled to decide what to do and was then delayed by the pandemic.
But her dream has now become a reality after her friend Alan Baybutt suggested a painting.
Alan painted a stairway leading up to clouds and the names of dozens of people who have taken their own lives, including Sam, are featured. It has the words “suicide prevention” across the top and the message “our story isn’t over” at the bottom.
Debby said the painting is “amazing” and there is space for more names to be added in future.
She contacted Coun Vicky Galligan to ask whether the painting could be put on display at Shevington Library and she put her in touch with Rebecca Mitchell, from Wigan’s libraries service, who helped to make it happen.
The painting was unveiled at the library on Saturday – the day before Sam’s 29th birthday – during a moving event which also included a dove release.
Ellie Palma-Cass, from EPiC HOPE, was there to speak about her organisation’s suicide prevention work and the support available to people who are struggling.
While the library is its “home”, Debby hopes the painting can be put on display in different venues around the borough, such as at The One House and Wigan Parish Church, so more people will be able to see it.
She is keen to remember people who have died, but also to change the perceptions surrounding suicide and highlight the help that is available.
Debby, who has three grandchildren, said: “The painting is to remember all the people who have taken their own lives for how they are loved, not how they died. Regardless of what people say, there is still stigma attached to this. I have contacted people and asked if they would like the name of their loved one on – some replied quite openly to say yes, but others didn’t want it on.
“It’s a matter of raising awareness of it. It’s not raised enough and the help out there isn’t always readily available.”
If you need to talk to someone, call Samaritans at any time on 116 123.