Empty season ticket seats at a Darlington stadium have made a powerful message to check on your friends and loved ones for World Suicide Prevention Day.

Seats in the stands at Darlington’s Blackwell Meadows donned black cloth asking ‘Where’s my mate?’ during a game on Tuesday (September 5) to remind people to check in on male friends and loved ones.

The stunt by charity Movember as part of its ‘Sport the Signs’ campaign aims to educate men on how to notice the early signs of mental health problems – such as uncharacteristically missing a game.

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Research by Movember revealed two-thirds of men would keep it to themselves if they were struggling despite almost half saying speaking to a loved one helped with their mental health.

The Northern Echo: 'Where's my mate?' empty seats at Mowden Park ask.'Where's my mate?' empty seats at Mowden Park ask. (Image: CHRIS BOOTH)

It also revealed an informal environment, such as at the pub, or watching a football game, is a time when most men said they’d be most comfortable checking in with a friend.

It came ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on Sunday (September 10).

The North East has the highest rate of male suicide in the UK, according to official statistics.

In the most recent figures, more than 328 deaths from suicide were registered in the North East in 2021 – equivalent to one every 27 hours. In Darlington the number of suicide deaths increased by 240% from 2020 to 2021, from 10 to 24.

Three of every four suicides are men, and it remains the leading cause of death for young men aged 20 to 34.

The Northern Echo: Seats at Mowden Park in DarlingtonSeats at Mowden Park in Darlington (Image: CHRIS BOOTH)

Howard Webb, former Premier League and FIFA referee, representative at Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL) and Rotherham local is also part of the campaign: “One of the reasons we all love the game is the sense of camaraderie and community it offers, whether that’s supporting a team from home or coming along and watching with your mates.

“People are often surprised when they realise the people that they see the most are those who sit or stand around them at a football game. Together with Movember we want to encourage people to reach out to those around them to help prevent them from reaching crisis point.”

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Dr Zac Seidler, Global Director of Men’s Health Research from Movember said: “We believe that every football fan holds the potential to make a difference in someone's life. With our 'Sport the Signs' campaign, we're turning Rotherham United and Darlington F.C.’s stadiums into platforms of hope for World Suicide Prevention Day.

“Through ‘filling’ these empty seats with such a poignant message, we want to remind people that noticing the signs, reaching out and supporting one another can truly save lives.

“As the UK’s leading men’s health charity, the only goal we truly care about is to stop men dying too young, and through this landmark collaboration, we hope to equip men with the knowledge, confidence, and tools that could save another man’s life.”