Warton mum's fight to help young people affected by suicide as family marks anniversary with special challenges

The mum of a young man who took his own life seven years ago has said she will continue to fight to raise awareness of the support that is available to help young people who feel they are in a similar situation.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 4:55 am
Jo Towers (right) with Stacey Agnew and Jo's cockapoo Micha.

Michael Towers was just 23 when he died by suicide on May 19 2014.

Just hours earlier, he had returned home from a trip of a lifetime to the United States with three friends.

At the time, he was working as a trainee chartered accountant and had a girlfriend of four years, Lindsey.

Michael Towers.

Michael's sudden death devastated his parents Jo and Chris and older brother David.

And at the time they were unaware of any support for families facing such circumstances.

However, shortly after Michael passed away, a friend of David's took part in a 10k run in Manchester in aid of Papyrus, a charity set up 34 years ago to support both young people who may be considering suicide, and also the families of young suicide victims.

We reported in 2015 how Jo then began helping to raise awareness of Papyrus, taking part in their Hope Walk to raise funds for the charity

Michael pictured at brother David's graduation with their parents Joand Chris - this was the last photo taken of the family together.

And to mark what would have been Michael's 30th birthday in February, and also the seventh anniversary of his passing this week, Jo is now planning to undertake a tandem skydive at Black Knights in Cockerham on July 10 to raise more funds for Papyrus, as well as to further highlight the charity's vital work.

David's girlfriend Stacey Agnew will also be running 30 miles on May 22, to commemorate Michael's 30th birthday.

"It's about turning a sadness into something positive and helping other people," Jo said. "The network of support we have got really helps, but it's about knowing where to reach out if you need a bit of help."

Jo, 55, who works as a circuit administrator for North Lancashire Methodist Circuit, said it is important for her and her family now to help others by raising awareness of the work Papyrus does.

Michael and David on a trip to Prague.

"Hopefully we can prevent this from happening to another family," she said.

With last week being Mental Health Awareness Week, Jo said how important it is that people keep talking and supporting each other - something which has been highlighted over the last year when lockdown has been hard for a lot of people.

Indeed, the British Medical Journal has noted that the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns may have led to an increase in the number of suicides in the last year.

Jo said it's important for people to feel able to talk about suicide - something which can often be seen as a taboo topic.

Michael with his friends during their US trip just before he died.

Often, people who are feeling suicidal don’t want to worry or burden anyone with how they feel and so they don’t discuss it.

But, by asking someone directly about suicide, you give them permission to tell you how they feel. People who have felt suicidal will often say what a huge relief it was to be able to talk about what they were experiencing.

Once someone starts talking they’ve got a better chance of discovering options that aren't suicide.

"More people are starting to talk about it," Jo said. "People need to realise that suicide is not a word that's bad.

"There should be more talking and asking people if they are OK - there's nothing wrong in asking if someone feels suicidal."

Stacey was initially introduced to David by her work colleague Lindsey, who was Michael's girlfriend at the time of his death.

Jo Towers is raising awareness of Papyrus after the sudden death of her son Michael.

The 32-year-old said the importance of the work Papyrus does, and the reason it is so close to her heart, will help her through her daunting 30-mile run.

"What I am doing it for is a motivation to help me through it," she said. "Running is definitely good for clearing the head. It's good to have that outlet, especially during lockdown.

"I came up with the idea myself to do 30 miles for Michael's 30th birthday. I like doing big challenges - it’s a good opportunity to raise awareness and support such a good cause.

"The most I have done before is a marathon, but I am hoping to complete it in five-and-a-half hours."

Stacey, who is a learning support tutor for Health and Fitness Education in Chorley, has planned a route from her home in Morecambe to Warton along the canal and then on to Lancaster and back to the prom in Morecambe.

Her family will be coming up from Leicester to support her.

Anyone wishing to donate to the cause can do so either on Jo's JustGiving page here or Stacey's page here.

MORE ABOUT PAPYRUS

Papyrus is the only national charity whose sole purpose is to prevent young people from taking their own lives.

It was founded in 1997 by a group of parents who had lost a child through suicide.

Papyrus – Prevention of Young Suicide – can be found online here and a telephone line, Hopeline UK, for both young people in need of help and their families, is available on 0800 068 4141

It is open from 9am until midnight every day of the year (weekends and bank holidays included)

You can also text 07860 039967 or email [email protected]

SUICIDE - THE FACTS

- Suicide is the main cause of death in young people under the age of 35 in the UK.

- Every year, across the UK, more than 1,600 young people under the age of 35 take their own lives.

- Between the ages of 15 and 24 the number is 600 to 800, equivalent to the population of a small secondary school.

- Three quarters of them are boys or young men.

- In 2018, 1,866 young people under the age of 35 took their own lives - more than three quarters of them were boys or young men.

- In England and Wales alone around 24,000 attempted suicides are made by 10 to 19 year olds – one every 20 minutes.

- On average, more than five young people take their lives each day.

- More than 200 schoolchildren are lost to suicide every year.

- Most suicides have been planned beforehand.

- 75 per cent of young suicides were unknown to mental health services.

- Many young people who take their own lives are not socially isolated; they often appear to be the life and soul of the party.

- Research shows that with appropriate early intervention and support, suicide by young people can be prevented.

Michael during his trip to Prague with brother David.
Michael with his older brother David.
Michael Towers.