A MOTHER whose son took his own life at the age of 22 after suffering years of depression is working with a city school to help others become aware of the signs of mental health problems in teenagers.
Laura Nolan, whose son, Josh, died two years ago, has launched a series of workshops at his former school, James Gillespie’s High, for parents, teachers and pupils in an attempt to reduce suicide numbers.
Ms Nolan, whose Joshua Nolan Foundation already directs youngsters to appropriate private counselling and can pay towards their sessions, aims to roll out the programme across Edinburgh schools.
She said: “Josh started having problems from the age of 14. I thought that a lot of his behaviour changes were just normal teenage rebellion and angst, but gradually he got worse.
“I did try to get him help and we were back and forth to the GP. By the time he was 16 he was diagnosed as being depressed and by then I had no say over anything as he was classed as an adult.”
She added: “The fact that I didn’t really know what was happening to Josh has made me want to get into schools to tackle this issue.
“Some of the workshops look at the way their brains work because they’re not fully formed until the early 20s and depression rates rise by 40 per cent between the ages of 15 and 22. And that’s when drink and drugs can also come into play as well as self-harming and eating disorders.”
The workshops are run by staff from Minds Well, a Leith-based social enterprise with a track record in working with young people and schools in raising awareness of self-harm, mental health problems, psychological distress and suicide prevention.
Josh died in his Newington flat in August 2013, becoming one of the statistics which show that suicide is the biggest killer of men aged between 20 and 44 in the UK and that it remains the most common cause of death in young men under 35.
Laura said: “Even now I find it so hard to take in, it’s been so horrendous. They’re your child, you love them and would do anything for them . . . it’s heartbreaking to watch your child be unable to get on with their life.”
So far, 525 people have signed up the ten hours of workshops at James Gillespie’s.
Pupil support leader Jeff Warden said the school was proud to be working with Laura to “enhance knowledge and understanding around mental health issues experienced by young people”.
He said the workshops built on work already done on mental health issues through social education lessons.
He said: “Teaching and learning is our priority and this includes crucial teaching and learning for young people about their own mental and emotional wellbeing. Opportunities like this are invaluable and if they make a positive difference to even one young person’s life then we will have succeeded.”