An Angus man’s unique spin on the term mobile DJ has raised thousands of pounds for a leading men’s mental health charity.
Devastated by the loss of two pals to suicide in the past year, John Starrs went on Carnoustie walkabout with his decks and speakers rigged up in a frame strung over his shoulders.
He hoped to raise a few hundred pounds in a pub crawl with a difference through the Angus town, belting out tunes to brighten lockdown for locals.
John’s total for the Brothers in Arms charity already stands at more than £2,000 following an overwhelming local response.
And the 33-year-old is promising to keep the idea going once lockdown lifts to ensure the suicide awareness message continues to be highlighted.
“In a small town like Carnoustie these things hit everybody hard,” said dad-of-four John.
“The most recent was a lad who I grew up with since primary school.
“We might not have been the closest of mates in terms of best friends, but he was always someone I had a great time with when we did meet up.
“I was really hurt by it and it is terrible to see those closest to those two guys left totally devastated,” said John.
I’m a typical man – I just don’t speak about anything that’s bothering me.
“The whole suicide awareness and mental health things has been heightened during the pandemic.
“Lots of people struggle, but they don’t talk about it until it’s too late.
“And I’m a typical man – I just don’t speak about anything that’s bothering me.
“That’s why I decided to do the DJ thing.”
He added: “Suicide in men is rarely spoken about so I wanted this to be a noisy walk.”
“In lockdown I had a bit of time to spare so I bought a set of decks and kind of got back into the music.”
A friend rigged up the frame for the decks, laptop and speakers and John set up a Justgiving page to promote the charity walk.
“I walked from one end of Carnoustie to the other,” he said.
“Obviously the pubs are closed so we couldn’t go in, but that’s how I remember those boys, maybe going from pub to pub in good times.”
Suicide in men is rarely spoken about so I wanted this to be a noisy walk.
Fundraiser John Starrs
John, who runs his own groundworks business, said: “A lot of people knew about it because of the impact this has had locally.
“Having grown up here I’m also well known in the town so plenty folk came out to see it.
“It turned into a brilliant thing and people seemed to enjoy it.
“I’ve been totally overwhelmed by the support for the charity,” he said.
“The target was £500 and that’s been completely blown away by the way people have responded.
“When the pubs open up again I hope I can do it again and maybe go inside with the decks to give folk a bit of entertainment.
“Hopefully we can keep the money coming in because folk have been great and I really feel; we need to do what we can for charities like this.”
Brothers in Arms
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK.
The volunteer-based Brothers in Arms charity was launched in 2017 as an awareness-raising website to represent men in Scotland.
In a prevention through self-management approach, the charity uses digital technology to help men support their own mental wellbeing.
Its services include access to a self-management app and wellbeing coach to help men reach their optimum positive state of mind and full potential.
Recent findings from a study carried out by the Mental Health Foundation have shown the deepening impact of the pandemic on Scottish adults.
They include a rise in the sense of hopelessness and a dramatic increase in feelings of loneliness.
While the Mental Health in the Pandemic survey revealed some positive signs, including falling levels of anxiety – from 64% of those surveyed in March 2020 to 44% in February 2021 – the overall picture was more mixed.
Ten per cent of Scottish adults surveyed in April 2020 said they had had thoughts and feelings about suicide in the previous two weeks.
This rose to 13 per cent in February 2021.
Fewer people said they are coping well with the stress of the pandemic, down from 76% in April 2020 to 65% in February this year.
Mental Health Foundation Scotland director, Lee Knifton said it was a “complex picture”.
“On some measures, Scottish adults are feeling better than in March 2020, with fewer of us feeling anxious about the pandemic.
“But more of us now feel lonely and hopeless, which is a serious concern given that these are risk factors for mental health problems.
“It is not yet clear whether the pandemic will affect suicide rates.
“We do know that suicide is preventable, if we take action now.
“It is also important to remember that most people who have suicidal thoughts and feelings do not go on to attempt or complete suicide.
“It is important to remember that the experience of the past year has not been shared equally by everyone.
“We have all been in the same storm, but we have not all been in the same boat.”
He added: “Post-election, the new Scottish Government needs to go further with a commitment to a wellbeing society that can overcome the root causes of poor mental health.
“This must include radical measures to prevent a Covid-19 unemployment crisis and tackle poverty.
“If any lessons are to be learned from the pandemic, it’s that we must put good mental health and wellbeing at the heart of the decision-making processes across all levels of government.”