FEATURE: Reaching out in memory of Sheffield teen Dan

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Sometimes needs in communities are hidden or ignored, and those affected by issues find themselves isolated without a clue of where to turn for help.

The McAllister family felt the impact of this first hand when teenager Dan took his own life at only 19.

Dan as a young boy

Dan as a young boy

When the Sheffield teenager died his family and friends were left devastated by their loss, made worse by their absolute shock.

Before his death, two years ago, there had been no signs that music lover Dan was suicidal.

Suicide is the top cause of death in young men aged 19-34, according to the latest figures from The Office of National Statistics.

The figures also show that more young men take their own lives than young women in this age group and others.

If we save one life, if we get one man to reach out, then it is worth it

Suzanne McAllister

Quickly after losing Dan his family set up SToRMS, The Dan McAllister Foundation, to raise awareness of young male suicide, to bridge the gap in services and ensure other men do not continue to find themselves in Dan’s position.

Suzanne, age 53, Dan’s mother and his sister Kate, aged 22, talk about Dan and how they have found direction in life since his death, in the work of their foundation.

Suzanne said: “Nobody saw it coming, Dan clearly hid it well.

“As a family we knew that not everything with Dan was all right but we never expected to lose him. What we would say to families is don’t take things for granted.

Tragically Dan took his own life at the age of just 19

Tragically Dan took his own life at the age of just 19

“There is a perception that young people are just acting up or being a grumpy teenager but you can’t always believe what you see.

“Even if they say they are fine, it doesn’t mean it’s true.

“We don’t want people to be in the same situation as us before they understand and are able to talk about mental health and suicide.

“We want to stop other families from being in the situation we are in and that is one of our main objectives.

“It’s a bit of an idealistic goal but we can do our best and if we save one life, if we get one man to reach out, then it is worth it.”

The Dan McAllister Foundation raises funding to support their outreach work in schools and aims to develop a learning programme as well as resources in suicide prevention.

When Suzanne and her family started SToRMS they partnered with South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation, which now manages the day-to-day administration of the cause so they can stay focused on fundraising and their outreach work with schools.

The foundation is a local grant-making charity that specialises in management solutions for charitable organisations.

Suzanne added: “It is still early days but there is so much we are already doing and want to do, that we are constantly busy.

“At the moment we are working with Papyrus, which is a young suicide prevention charity to provide input into local schools focusing on mental wellbeing, suicide prevention and how to help yourself and others.

“These workshops are for teachers, parents and students and we aim to encourage a schoolwide approach to supporting pupil mental wellbeing with them.

“We are also looking at advice for GPs on how to talk to people who come to them with mental health problems or suicidal thoughts or behaviour.

“Often that first impression defines whether that person comes back for another appointment or leaves feeling rejected and that they shouldn’t ask for help.

“One of our main aims is also to challenge the gender stereotypes which prevent men from accessing the support they need.”

In memory of Dan and his love of music, his family are hosting a live music fundraiser for the foundation on Sunday, July 31, a few days before what would have been his 21st birthday, at Yellow Arch Studios in Kelham Island from 12-7pm.

Suzanne added: “Dan was a comedian from a very early age and he was known for his cheeky smile right from playgroup.

“He was a musician from a very young age. His grandma bought him a tin drum for Christmas when he was two and he carried on drumming after that.

“He was in numerous bands. He wrote his own music and taught himself to play the guitar and bass.

“We’ve kept the entry fee low at £3 because we want to get as many people through the door to get the message out.

“We want to spread awareness and get people talking about young male suicide and all the proceeds will go to our suicide prevention work.

“Dan loved all genres of music so the bands that are playing are a mix of all different sounds.

“There’s funk, acoustic, hip hop, pop and soul, a real mix.

“No one is too young or too old to come so please do.”

FACTFILE:

To find out more about SToRMS: The Dan McAllister Foundation , go to Storms, The Dan Mcallister Foundation

Go to the SToRMS website to sign up to the music event or just turn up on July 31.

Get in touch by email via enquiries@stormsdmc.org 
If you feel like you need help with your mental health or a loved ones then go to www.stormsdmc.org/where-to-seek-help/ 
If you need help immediately call The Samaritans on 116 124 or visit www.samaritans.org.

To find out how the South Yorkshire Community Foundation can work with your charity, go to South Yorkshire Community Foundation or emai admin@sycf.org.uk