A musician’s desperate plea after friends kill themselves


A musician who has spent much of his life working in the touring music industry says more support for men’s mental health is needed in Liverpool.

Jeff Skellon has worked in the music industry on merchandise stands since 1987 and has spent much of his life on the road touring the world.

But the 61-year-old from Mossley Hill has said over the years that a number of his friends took their own lives after he returned from touring.

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Jeff said “this is not a unique situation” in the music industry – but rather a broader representation of mental health service delivery in general.

He told ECHO: “I worked in the touring music industry for many years.

During this period, I lost many friends and colleagues to suicide.

“You would never know when they were on tour – when they were often ‘life and soul’ – that they had issues in their lives.

“Each of them surprised me.”

Jeff said thankfully he never had any personal issues with his own mental health – but hearing how many friends and co-workers had taken their own lives made him wonder why.

Jeff said: “When you notice other people who seem to be coping so well have actually committed suicide and you haven’t noticed it, you wonder if you have any underlying issues.

“I often wondered if I had a problem to solve, but I was lucky to have the support of my family when I was working outside.

“I think family issues and trying to balance work and family on the road can be the big problem.

“You have to wonder what brings people to this point – and I’m not saying it’s a unique situation in my industry.

“It just caught my attention because it’s my life path.

“I have worked with thousands of people and only a few have unfortunately committed suicide.

Help lines and support groups

The following are helplines and support networks people can talk to, primarily listed on the NHS Choices website

  • Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24 hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write how you feel or are worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org.
  • CALM Campaign Against Living Miserably (0800 58 58 58) is a leading movement against suicide. It runs a UK helpline and online chat from 5pm to midnight 365 days a year for anyone who has hit a wall for whatever reason, needs to talk or find information and help.
  • PANDAS (0808 1961 776) run a free helpline and offer a support service for people who may be suffering from perinatal mental illness, including prenatal (antenatal) and postnatal depression, as well as support for their family or their network.
  • Childline (0800 1111) operates a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number will not appear on your phone bill.
  • PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is an association supporting suicidal adolescents and young adults.
  • Mind (0300 123 3393) is a charity that provides advice and support to empower anyone with a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
  • Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, in a low mood, or have suicidal thoughts.
  • Bullying UK is a website for children and adults who are victims of bullying.
  • Amparo provides emotional and practical support to anyone affected by suicide. This includes dealing with police and coroners; assist with media requests; prepare for and attend an investigation and assist in accessing other appropriate local support services. Call 0330 088 9255 or visit www.amparo.org.uk for details.

  • Hub of Hope is the UK’s most comprehensive national mental health support database. Download the free app, visit hubofhope.co.uk or text HOPE to 85258 to find relevant services near you.
  • Youth Advisory Service – Provides mental health and emotional wellbeing services to children, young people and families in Liverpool. Phone. 0151 707 1025 email: support@ypas.org.uk
  • Paul’s Place – offers free advice and group sessions for anyone living on Merseyside who has lost a family member or friend to suicide. Tel: 0151 226 0696 or email: paulsplace@beaconcounsellingtrust.co.uk
  • The Martin Gallier Project – provides in-person support for people contemplating suicide and their families. Opening hours 9.30am-4.30pm, 7 days a week. Tel: 0151 644 0294 email: triage@gallierhouse.co.uk

“It’s not a high percentage, but it’s higher than it should be.”

Jeff said life on the road is hard and exhausting work, so the ability to talk openly about your issues is sometimes not available.

The pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding labor and the government grant system also presented another issue that affected many in the music industry.

He said: “You don’t always hear the reasons why – and sometimes it can be seen as a strange thing to talk about their issues.

“But if someone commits suicide, there’s a taboo about saying why they did it, which I find really disconcerting.

“If we can talk about these things openly, maybe we can avoid letting him get to this situation.”

Jeff said he wanted to do what he could to start supporting men’s mental health services in Liverpool – but was surprised to find they were running out.

He said he wanted to start raising money for a men’s mental health charity three years ago, but was told they were closing due to lack of support.

Jeff called it “ironic” – but he soon got in touch with James’ Place and organized a fundraiser with his previous band which raised £1,300.

James’ Place is a service that exists to save the lives of men in crisis – and has helped 500 men since the service launched in 2018.

Due to the success of the previous fundraiser, Jeff and his band The Ruby Tears will perform a second concert to raise funds for the men’s charity again.

He said: “Having centers like James’ Place helps reduce the number of lives lost.

“What we’ve lifted is probably not even a drop in the bucket – but if we can help even one life, that’s important.

“We just tried to do our little bit to help.”

Jeff and The Ruby Tears will play The Leaf on Bold Street on March 4.

You can also donate to Jeff’s fundraiser here.

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