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Officers raise awareness after losing loved one to suicide

News   •   Jul 26, 2019 09:57 BST

Michael Gallagher

Two serving police officers are trying to raise awareness of crisis support for men after losing a loved one in tragic circumstances.

Laura and Tony Madden have set up a Just Giving page in memory of Laura's brother Michael, who took his life in April, with all proceeds going to James' Place in Liverpool.

The charity is a non-clinical centre for men who are experiencing suicidal thoughts and offers therapy and counselling in safe, confidential and comfortable setting.

Opened in a townhouse in Catharine Street on the edge of the city centre last summer, it is the first of its kind in the country and has already had 200 men referred to it for support and help.

The charity's founders, Clare Milford Haven and Nick Wentworth-Stanley, lost their 21-year-old son James to suicide in 2006 after he suddenly became depressed following a minor operation.

Laura, a detective at the Protecting Vulnerable People Unit, and Tony, who currently works in Central targeted team, decided to raise money for James' Place after they and relatives visited the service in the aftermath of Michael's death.

Michael was training to be a mental health nurse and was weeks away from graduating from Edge Hill University when he died aged 31.

The couple have already raised more than £2,000 thanks to colleagues and friends, which is the equivalent of providing counselling to six men.

Laura said: "Michael was passionate about helping others with mental health problems, despite suffering really badly from it himself. It was such a shock to everyone that he felt he had to take his own life, we are still coming to terms with it.

"We heard about James' Place through a family friend and went to see them as a family and they were such a big help at such a terrible time. We just talked to them and through that learnt what they were there to do. We decided we wanted something positive to come out of Michael's death and support a local charity that saves the lives of people like Michael.

"Over 400 people came to his funeral and thanks to their generosity we raised £500, and then Tony decided to do the Liverpool to Chester bike race and he's raised more than £2,000 from that.

"The support and generosity of people has been overwhelming and now we want to keep the momentum going and make as many people as possible aware that services like James' Place and also Paul's Place in north Liverpool are there for anyone who needs them."

Targeted team constable Tony, a keen cyclist, completed the charity ride as solo effort after two months of training.

He added: "The distance was fine, its the hills around Cheshire which cause the real tiredness!

"I found the training and riding alone a great coping mechanism for what we'd gone through. Once we'd visited the charity and found how the donations could directly save lives then I was spurred on to complete the ride.

"Having been directly affected and also seeing first hand how suicide touched the lives of our family, to now know that a service such as James' Place exists is a comfort. I would urge anyone suffering any such negative feelings to please get in touch with the charity. It's OK not to be OK.

"I want to continue the fund raising and awareness of James' Place with more rides. I'm looking into the possibility of completing the Transpennine Trail in both directions next year so watch this space."

An inquest into Michael's death is due to take place which Laura hopes will shed some light onto what happened and why.

She said: "Michael was such a character and a lovely brother, son, uncle, cousin and Nephew. He is sorely missed by all his friends and family. If he'd only spoken about how he felt then we now know somewhere likes James' Place could have helped guide him through his mental health problems. No one deserves to suffer in silence."

Clare Milford Haven, Founder of James' Place and recent winner of the ‘Woman Making a Difference Award’ at Merseyside’s Woman of the Year awards, said: “We are so grateful to Laura and Tony for choosing to remember Michael with their exceptional achievements in fundraising for and raising awareness of James' Place. Their efforts will help more men in suicidal crisis to safety. We are glad James' Place were able to offer some comfort to them and their families during such a difficult time. Once you have walked through the door at James' Place, you are a part of James' Place."

To donate to the fund visit Tony and Laura's Just Giving page here. To find out more about James' Place visit www.jamesplace.org.uk