CUMNOCK schoolboys have been learning the importance of talking about their mental health through sport.

A rugby and football festival, organised by an East Ayrshire teacher, that aimed to raise awareness of suicide among young male pupils has proved a hit with pupils across Ayrshire.

‘Talk A Good Game’ was split into two days and almost 200 S3 pupils turned out to play in the first rugby event held at Kilmarnock Rugby Club with some big sporting names attending.

It comes after devastating figures revealed suicides more than doubled in East Ayrshire last year.

There were 26 suspected suicides between January and November 2018, compare with 12 suicide deaths in 2017.

The devastating news comes as health chiefs announce an investigation into the most recent 50 cases of people who took their own lives.

Cumnock Chronicle:

Now maths teacher Jamie Houston has set the inspiring event up after he was asked to speak at the funeral of Liam McGhee, a 15-year- old pupil inSeptember 2018.

He said: “Liam’s funeral coincided with his team’s u16 rugby tour and we returned to attend the funeral.

“Understandably, his team-mates were devastated and, as I saw how incredibly they pulled together to support each other, I decided to do something to help young male pupils who might be contemplating taking their own life.”

Talk a Good Game was the result, designed to change the perceptions about mental health and the effects that bereavement, stress, money, relationships, i s olation, self-image and countless other pressures can exerton young people.

From the world of football, former Scottish International Andy McLaren hosted a workshop for the pupils, sharing his own exper iences of being banned from football after a positive drug test when playing for Reading Football Club in 2000.

After working hard to overcome his addictions, he resurrected his career with Kilmarnock later the same year and gained a national cap when Scotland played Poland in 2001.

Cumnock Chronicle:

Councillor Fiona Campbell, East Ayrshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning said: “Talk A Good Game is a brilliant idea.

“By combining rugby and football with helpful, practical and supportive workshops, young male pupils can take the team spirit they have on the pitch off field and learn to look out for each other in school and socially.

“It’s admirable that pupils are also being encouraged to reach out to others too, perhaps encouraging someone they know to come forward and get the help they need.

“It’s one of those fantastic sporting events where everyone really is a winner, on and off the field and I’m thrilled to learn that it might become an annual event.”