Duo aiming to help men’s mental health

Courtney Vacher and Anthony Vacher.
Courtney Vacher and Anthony Vacher.

A brother and sister in Blyth are aiming to set-up what they believe is a much-needed new mental health support group following the recent tragic deaths of young men in the town.

Popular barber Darryl Smith, 28, committed suicide in June and his brother Dylan, 22, did the same a few weeks later.

Darryl and Dylan Smith.

Darryl and Dylan Smith.

When taken in context with the similar deaths of other men in the area over recent months, Courtney Vacher felt there was an issue that needed to be addressed and something had to be done.

She did some research and discovered County Durham-based ManHealth, a Community Interest Company that aims to create a network of male peer support groups.

And following a meeting, she is now looking to establish such a group in Blyth.

The 27-year-old also spoke to her brother Anthony, a talented musician, about what she was doing.

Kelly McFarlane with her brother John, who took his own life in November last year.

Kelly McFarlane with her brother John, who took his own life in November last year.

Unknown to her, he had been struggling with his own feelings of isolation, lack of self-worth and depression and had written a song called This Could Be about how he was feeling.

Anthony, 24, decided that sharing his song would help raise awareness about the issue and now it has had upwards of 25,000 views online – including Facebook and YouTube – in a little over two weeks.

He said: “I never intended for this song to be released.

“It was about something too private, something I hadn’t even shared with my closest family, but following the loss of a number of special lads in Blyth I felt I had to do something.

“I learned myself that it’s not good keeping things bottled up and so as hard as it was, releasing the song has helped me to open up and I’m really glad I did it because the reaction has been amazing.

“I’ve had so many supportive messages from people I don’t know from other parts of the world and some have also mentioned their own stories.

“My family and girlfriend have helped me with this and the support from the families of Darryl and Dylan Smith and John McFarlane (there is footage and images of them in the video for the song, John took his own life in November last year) has been brilliant from the beginning.”

This Could Be is available on iTunes, with all proceeds going towards establishing and maintaining a ManHealth group in Blyth.

Courtney said a group leader and venue are being sought and it will cost in the region of £5,000 a year to maintain the group.

The business and economics teacher and service co-ordinator at Newcastle School for Boys added: “After what’s happened in our town over recent months, this type of service to support young men is what’s missing in Blyth because it’s important to be preventative rather than just being reactive.

“I was initially going to raise money for ManHealth, but when I met with founder Paul Bannister, he suggested that it would be worth trying to set-up a peer support group in Blyth.

I knew Darryl. He was an inspirational person and would always support me with any charity fund-raising I was doing, often donating raffle prizes.

“He even reached out on social media about his struggles with depression to encourage others to get the help they needed.

“John (McFarlane) took his own life after not getting the help and support that he needed and is part of the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing.

“His sister, Kelly, is part of our team in setting this up.”

An adults-only Hallowe’en fund-raiser to support the efforts and also the Palliative Care Unit at Wansbeck Hospital will take place at The Seahorse on Friday, October 26, from 7pm.

Call 01670 353650 for ticket details.