A MATHS teacher who has tragically lost 10 pupils because of suicide helped organise a Kilmacolm rugby tournament to raise awareness about mental health.

Jamie Houston, who is head of S6 and careers at St Columba’s in Kilmacolm, was delighted to see over 100 young rugby players from eight different take part in the recent ‘Talk a Good Game’ competition which was hosted at Birkmyre Park.

The pupils who participated in the tournament also got the chance to listen to speakers from Man On Inverclyde, Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) and Police Scotland.

Ex-Morton player Andy McLaren also paid the youngsters a visit and gave a candid talk about his own struggles with drugs and alcohol.  

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The event aimed to help those playing learn more about mental health and other related issues while playing sport and having a good time.

Mr Houston told the Telegraph that he felt sport could play an important role in breaking down barriers and encouraging young people to talk about their problems.

He said: “In the 18 years I’ve been teaching 10 youngsters that I’ve taught have taken their lives, which is a horrific statistic.

“The youngest was 15 and the eldest was 28 and I don’t want to be speaking at any more young people’s funerals.

“We need to get these messages across, this is extremely important.

“We have an opportunity to do that here through sport and the template for what we’ve done here is available for clubs across the country.

Greenock Telegraph: Rugby tournament held in Kilmacolm to raise awareness about mental health.

“This is the fourth Talk a Good Game event I’ve run, but the first I’ve put on in Kilmacolm.

“What instigated it originally was losing a young person to suicide, it was devastating.

“The aftermath was particularly devastating for his friends and the community, and I realised at that point that we really needed to try and capitalise on the rapport that sports coaches have with kids.

“It can help open their minds and give them a different perception of mental health, which means they might be more likely to approach people when they’re struggling.

“It was really nice to see everybody here enjoying the day and enjoying the sport.”

Greenock Telegraph: Rugby tournament held in Kilmacolm to raise awareness about mental health.

Mr Houston and his colleagues hope that the event can be brought back next year to keep the focus on mental health and are planning a follow-up tournament aimed at young girls.

He said: “The feedback we’re getting from the kids is that they’re enjoying it, the workshops are short and sharp and they’re out enjoying sport and having a really nice time.

“I’m hoping this will be an annual event and we’re also going to be holding a hockey event for the girls later in the year.

“I want this place to be buzzing over the next few years with more and more people benefitting from Talk a Good Game.”

Greenock Telegraph: Rugby tournament held in Kilmacolm to raise awareness about mental health.

The school’s senior pupils also played a key role in running the tournament and the majority of them recently completed a course in mental health first aid.

Mr Houston, alongside school marketing officer Kayleigh Ingham, has also been delivering sessions about mental health to staff.

Ms Ingham said: “We’re in the process of rolling out training for teaching staff and non-teaching staff too.

“We’ve touched on things that might seem common sense, but it helps people be more aware of them.

“It helps remind people how these issues can impact the day today running of your life.

“I’ve had difficulty with my mental health and I talk quite candidly about that in the training, there are a lot of things I think people don’t realise become difficult when you’re having that kind of daily struggle.

Greenock Telegraph: Rugby tournament held in Kilmacolm to raise awareness about mental health.

“I think a lot of people now feel a bit more positive talking to their colleagues about how they’re getting on.

“We’re all just a little bit more open with each other, it creates an environment where you don’t have to stay quiet about it.

“We’re trying to get the kids talking, get the staff talking and have an environment where people are able to talk about it.”