Brother visits art installation raising awareness of young suicide

Date: Monday 11th February 2019

MORLAND teenager Gregor Airey, whose sister Sophie took her own life in December, was one of the visitors to an art installation in Liverpool which aims to raise awareness of young people losing their lives to suicide.

A total of 226 pairs of children’s shoes were placed on the steps of St George’s Hall, opposite the busy Lime Street station, to represent the number of schoolchildren who took their own lives in 2017.

It was the work of charity Papyrus (Parents Against Preventable Young Suicide), which marked the start of mental health awareness week with the moving tribute. Gregor, aged 18, is at university in Liverpool, and had been informed that the installation would be there, so was keen to go along to see it for himself.

“It is an extremely powerful thing, I looked at it and just thought that all those little shoes should be running around in a playground and it’s a complete tragedy that for so many kids this has happened,” said Gregor.

Papyrus worker Lisa Roxby said: “There are over 200 schoolchildren that die every year by suicide and over 1,600 die every year under the age of 35, so it is something we really need to talk more about, more openly and safely and encourage people to reach out for support. The Government has pledged a lot of money to introduce counsellors in every school, but we think this needs to go further and it needs to be a whole school approach.

“All members of staff should have some kind of suicide prevention awareness, to be able to support the young people who are struggling, and to be able to spot signs which might tell us that they’re struggling with thoughts of suicide.”

The Aireys only discovered Papyrus since Sophie, aged 29, took her own life after going missing from her home near Edinburgh last year, but they have been so impressed by their work that her father Andy decided to take her place in a half marathon in Northumberland to raise money for the organisation. The run does not take place until 23rd March, but Sophie’s story has touched so many people that his JustGiving page in her memory has already raised more than £17,000.

Donations can still be made at https://www.justgiving.com/remember/650332/Sophie-Airey but Andy is also keen that Sophie’s story also serves to raise awareness that help is out there for those who do feel suicidal, through organisations such as Papyrus.