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The Widnes Vikings will be showing their support for World Suicide Prevention Day during the September Betfred Championship match.
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Widnes Vikings Make a Standout Stadium Statement for Mental Health Awareness

Widnes Vikings Make a Standout Stadium Statement for Mental Health Awareness

On Monday September 5 Widnes Vikings will be asking the rugby league community, both in stadium and those watching at home, to take a moment to reflect on the effect suicide has around the world.

In strong symbolism, 120 shirts will be displayed on seats within the stadium, representing each person somewhere in the world who will take their own life during the 80-minute match.

The weekly Widnes Vikings-run men's health group, organised by Vikings Community Rugby League Co-ordinator Sean Mellor, brought the idea to fruition.

Sean Mellor explained: "For a number of years Widnes Vikings has run a men's group for people interested in improving their mental fitness. At the moment the group is committed to learning about the work of the Zero Suicide Alliance.

"In talking about suicide, we discussed a number of eye-opening statistics, and one of the most impactful was the fact that during 80 minutes of a rugby league match, 120 people around the world will take their own lives.

"That grew into how we might visualise and symbolise that, and having 120 shirts at the game seemed like a good idea to give it some perspective for people. Seeing that at the Halifax game will be really powerful.

"A lot of people in the rugby league community will know somebody who has been affected by suicide in one way or another, including those that have been left behind, and understand the devastating effect that has.

"By running this initiative for a game that is live on Premier Sports, hopefully we can play a role in people talking about the issue, and feeling comfortable doing so. We have to move away from the stigma that surrounds men in particular talking and sharing their thoughts."

As World Suicide Prevention Day takes place on September 10, the Betfred Championship match against Halifax will be held at the beginning of the same week on September 5.

Vikings Chief Executive Phil Finney spoke out on not only the club, but the rugby league, becoming a platform for suicide awareness.

Phil Finney said: "As an organisation, Widnes Vikings want to be more than just a rugby league club between 3-5pm on a Sunday. We've got a responsibility to our local community to use our platform and presence in the town to raise awareness of really important issues.

"When you consider that suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, this is certainly one of those issues. If we can help people by encouraging them to come to one of Sean's sessions or get people to talk to each other about their feelings, then that's great.

"The Halifax game is a very visual way of bringing this into people's consciousness. But this is not just a Widnes Vikings-centric programme, it's about the whole community and rugby league in general.

"Historically, rugby league is a sport played by alpha males, and really tough men that knock lumps out of each other on the pitch. But mental health issues don't discriminate whether you're a rugby player or not."

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