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Don't keep it in

SUICIDE is the biggest killer of men under 50, so in support of World Suicide Prevention Day today (Tuesday 10th September), we will be sharing stories from men who have overcome tough times to encourage our supporters to seek help when they need it.

The stories are from Samaritans’ Real People, Real Stories campaign. The men featured in the campaign share their stories of recovery and words of encouragement to let others know they should seek help when they need it.

Local branch Director at Brent Samaritans, Debby Wilson said: “We know men can sometimes find it really hard to admit they are having trouble coping and can be reluctant to seek help, and we want to say that at the Brent branch we do our best to make it easy to get in touch with Samaritans and talk to a volunteer. We are here to take calls 24/7 free on 116 123.”

QPR are teaming up with our local Samaritans branch (Brent) to help spread the word about mental health and urge more men to open up about the issues that are causing them to be stressed, anxious or suicidal. 

Samaritans and the work they do are constantly striving to ensure fewer people die by suicide. They make it their mission to help those affected by suicide and help those that are down by providing a safe place to talk. If you need support, or if you know someone who is struggling, Samaritans are there to listen and are free to call 365 days of the year.

Below is Leon’s story, a former footballer and professional boxer who has struggled with mental health issues.

Former Premier League footballer and boxer turned coach, personal trainer and mental health campaigner Leon McKenzie always had a passion to succeed. As well as tremendous achievements, he faced huge challenges, too.

The former footballer, now 40, a father of five and a grandad, said: “I made a choice to do the best that I could.” Leon struggled with depression and injuries which affected his career and his mental health.

Leon’s sister took her own life aged 23, when he was 24 and playing for Peterborough United. “I kept strong but I did not really know how to deal with it,” he said. He still sleeps with a picture of her by his bed.

Aged 31, playing for Coventry, he ruptured his Achilles tendon. “I never got back from it and I did not recover psychologically,” Leon said.

In a hotel room one night, he took an overdose. “I had had enough. I didn’t want to be here anymore,” he said. “I woke up in hospital, surrounded by my family, who were crying and that is the worst feeling in the world; the guilt.”

Life went further off the rails and Leon was sentenced to six months in HMP Woodhill. Things changed in prison. He began training and wrote his autobiography. “Fitness is a big part of mentally coping for me,” he said. “It can make your mind calmer.”

Leon turned a corner and in 2014 he started boxing as a Super Middleweight and won awards. In 2017 he retired and is now a coach and personal trainer, raising awareness of the importance of good mental health and wellbeing, especially among young people.

“My motto is: Fight it. We all have it in us to fail, it’s about how we bounce back. Hold on and keep focused.”

Leon McKenzie shared his story on TalkSPORT on Tuesday 9th April, where he helped a caller live on air.

Don’t suffer in silence, call Samaritans for free – 116 123 https://www.samaritans.org/