They had just lost 2-1 to Steeton in the NWCFL First Division North and were on their way down the M62, but as they came off at Junction 18, Golcar United players Nathan Tayo and Mike Fish, they noticed a man perched on the wrong side of the railings of the bridge - ready to end his life.
"Myself and Mike Fish were driving home. I live in Heywood, which is Manchester way, as does Mike so we drive up together when we’ve got a home game. Most of the away games are this side of the hill, in relation to Yorkshire", Tayo commented.
"We drove up to Steeton together and were coming home. We came off a roundabout on the M62 – Junction 18, I think – and we noticed this lad sitting on the wrong side of the bridge. We’d gone past him so we had to go back around. We both looked at to each other straight away and said we needed to get around there and try to talk to this lad. As we’ve gone around, I was on the passenger side so I got out to try to talk to him."
"I said, “What’s going on mate? You couldn’t try and get down?”
"Fish had a word as well and we managed to get close enough to him. We eased him off where he was sitting and took him to the side. If you imagine the bridge drops down to the motorway, we took him to about a couple of metres away from the side of the bridge. He perched himself on the fence there. If he’d have fallen there, he’d have only fallen onto the embankment behind.
"It happened relatively quickly, from us getting out of the car and after we spoke to him. I said to Mike to phone for the ambulance, then he came back and we were having a chat.
"It was difficult. I’ve never been in that situation before and hopefully never again. It’s difficult because how do you approach the situation? What do you say? We tried to chat with him about general things, waiting for help to arrive. We got to know a little bit about him in those twenty minutes.
"He’d had a pretty violent – by what he was saying – and a pretty poor life. The last few days and obviously on Saturday he’d just had enough. I’ll be honest: it wasn’t nice."
Mental health issues, especially in men has hit the headlines in recent years and in July the NWCFL teamed up with State of Mind, who aim to improve the mental health, wellbeing and working life of sports players and communities. But for these two to make that decision to go and speak to the young lad it is a massive credit to and not something that everyone would do.
"I don’t know. We’ve had Andys Man Club (a fellow mental health charity) going around most of the clubs and they came to us seven or eight weeks ago. Mike was talking to him about that. He explained, “Have you ever heard of anything like that?” and he said no. That might be a good option, a good start.
"I’m a Safeguard Officer in a school and I work with some issues with mental health. I’ve not come across anything as severe as the lad on Saturday but I am aware of some levels of support out there. With Andys Man Club coming to the club a few weeks ago, I explained that there’s a lot more support now. This lad was saying he had no one to talk to – nothing.
"I can’t remember a lot of the conversation. It happened quite quickly until the police got there. We just tried talking to him about who he could talk to; maybe different members of his family. He did say he had some family but he couldn’t speak to them."
Tayo agreed that the issue of mental health issues in men is still a taboo subject but there are several charities out there doing offering fantastic support, "Absolutely. When the guy from Andys Man Club came in, we had a squad of sixteen and other lads were there. We had twenty people in the changing room and he said, by the law of averages, there were probably three or four people in there who were suffering from their mental health.
"It’s difficult because I’ve not been in that position. We all get stressed. We all have bad days but I’ve never felt that low where I’ve felt the need to speak to somebody. As life goes on, I never know. Me being the person I am, I don’t know if I would. I’d like to think I would be able to and there’s absolutely no fear in it whatsoever but it’s still a bit of a taboo subject, regardless of all the support out there and everyone trying to promote “It’s Okay to Talk”.
"It still happens, as we saw on Saturday. That lad said he was up there for a couple of minutes before we got there. We don’t know what the outcome would have been had we not got there so soon but he’d not been in that mindset of wanting to speak to somebody. There are a lot of new initiatives now but that might be me being naïve because I don’t necessarily know which initiatives have been out there for a long time. "
Whilst today's defeat was a very bitter pill to swallow just found out that 2 of our players talked down a 19 year old lad off jumping off a bridge in their way home. They stayed with him for 20 mins till the police arrived. Hope he gets the help he needs and well done lads! 👏💚— Golcar United FC (@golcarunited) November 23, 2019
"My phone broke on the way up to Steeton on Saturday. I think some water got into my phone and I couldn’t turn it on. When I got home, I charged my old phone and reset my old settings. I’d got a few messages saying I did a good thing. I didn’t realise what people were talking about, then one of my friends – a Bacup man – asked who that tweet’s about, the nineteen-year-old lad? I said, “Me and Fish.” He said, “Have you seen how many people have seen it?” That’s when I realised.
"It sounds cliché but most people would have done the same thing. Or I’d like to think people would have done.
"When the police officer arrived, he took our names and addresses and said hopefully they’d be able to give us an update on how things are getting on but, with confidentiality, it might not be the case. I can’t begin to imagine how he felt but when he was trying to explain how he felt I could see things from his point of view. He had nowhere else to go. His outlook on life was just so bleak. We tried to cheer him up and have general chitchat with him but his responses were quite bleak.
"It was quite sad. That, for me, is why I’d love to know how he’s getting on."
"Mike said we couldn’t really do much more but we might potentially have given him a chance, which is what he might have needed. He spoke to us a little bit so maybe he can go and speak to the professionals who can help him better."
Danny Sculthorpe, trustee of the State of Mind Sport charity, explained what support is on offer for anyone suffering from mental health issues, "The thing with men is men think it’s a weakness if they speak about their problems but, really, if a man comes forward to seek help, he’s more a man than if he doesn’t. Just for men to come forward, there’s a lot of help out there.
"There’s Andys Man Club. State of Mind is going around all of the North West Counties clubs, doing presentations. We’re a prevention charity and we’re trying to give people the tools to use if they start feeling down or noticing the signs and the symptoms in their teammates and friends. There’s also the Samaritans and MIND. Papyrus are for youngsters. They used to be for under-18s but now that’s under-35s.
"There is a lot of help out there but, most of all, we don’t need to be talking about MIND and the Samaritans. What we need to be doing is looking out for your mates. It’s as simple as that. Asking them that question if there is something different in their personality, whether they’ve gone from being the life and soul of the party and not being or having a pint after work and now not doing. If you see that difference in them, just ask them if they’re okay.
"Please don’t take that stock answer, “Yes, I’m fine” as an answer. If you see that difference in them, you might give them that bit of courage to open up. That simple question might then save their life.
On the incident last weekend involving Nathan Tayo and Mike Fish, Sculthorpe hailed their actions, "They’ve not only saved his life. His family and friends; a lot of people of people get affected by suicide. There’s more of a chance of them taking their own lives because of the effect it’s had on them. It can have a big impact. If that man had brothers and sisters, again they’re more at risk of taking their own lives because he had done it. It can have such big devastation on families so it’s not just that young kid on that bridge whom they’ve saved; they’ve saved lives in his family and mates as well.
"You see guys who take their own lives and their teammates follow them because they’re struggling with it. They blame themselves because they’ve not seen how he’s been struggling. There’s a lot of guilt so it’s amazing what they have done. It is."
For anyone reading the article, Danny had this advice, "Don’t be afraid. If you were to break a leg on the football field, you go to the hospital and get it fixed. What is the difference with your mental health? If you start struggling with your mental health, the sooner you get it looked at, the sooner you get it fixed and the sooner you’re going to be back performing on a Saturday afternoon. Just come forward and seek that help because it is a strength, not a weakness."
For any information about State of Mind, please visit their website here.