It’s OK To Say: Tribute match held in honour of former St Albans City player

St Albans City FC players pay tribute to former player Mike Thalassitis.

St Albans City FC players pay tribute to former player Mike Thalassitis. - Credit: Archant

Stacey Turner, founder of mental health awareness campaign It’s OK To Say, was a special guest at Saturday’s St Albans City tribute match in memory of former player Mike Thalassitis.

When someone leaves this world by choice or not, it is without doubt the most painful of experiences for those left behind.

It was my pleasure to be guest at St Albans City FC last Saturday as we paid tribute to former player and friend, Mike Thalassitis, who was found dead in a park near his childhood home in Edmonton on March 16.

I stepped out onto the pitch with Saints co-owner Lawrence Levy alongside the players and other members of the club. Clarence Park echoed the beautiful sound of the entire stadium’s applause for one minute before kick off.

It’s powerful effect pulled in every person present, forcing them to stop, pay attention and hopefully inspire self reflection. I felt the sadness, this was for a person that was part of the St Albans City FC family and its history. I love the Saints for what they give our community and part of that is a branch of strength.

The sad reality of suicide is it has a massive ripple effect perhaps the person contemplating suicide doesn’t realise. It touches someone on the farthest part of our circle, even when the friendship was for a short period of time and brief, where a conversation was held the day before, yet are hardly in contact. It’s how one makes another feel, there isn’t another you and your value is highly underestimated and perception altered when smothered by the suffering storm to get to the point of suicide.

“Self-murder” was a crime in England in the mid 13th century until 1961 and long before a mortal sin in the eyes of the church. If one was put before the court for attempting suicide and fined (£25), put on probation or worse, sent to jail, the stigma attached to the person and their family lasted a lifetime with everyone washed in shame since they had committed a crime and/or sin.

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For the deceased family, punishment did not end with death, they were stripped of their possessions and handed to the crown with any privileges taken away, often reducing the family to poverty.

Then in 1958/9 a joint collaboration between the British Medical Association, the Magistrates’ Association and the Church of England urged “a “more compassionate and merciful outlook”.

Thankfully, in the late ‘50s and ‘60s, attitudes shifted from an act of crime or sin to the medicalisation of suicide, recognising and highlighting that the majority of individuals attempting or dying from suicide were in a great deal of distress.

This revolution is pertinent in understanding suicide and the stigma attached to by showing there are options of help to alleviate and tackle distress.

In today’s society, the branches of help offer hope in a desperate attempt to demonstrate how to navigate your life positively with reward. While the first recommendation is that you see your GP, you can also self-refer and seek help yourself.

I have seen all too often the judgment of medication offered by a GP and I believe that is attached to past stigma surrounding mental health. Offering medication is a gift, it was fought for to help people and should be highly valued rather than dismissed.

But GPs can offer much more than a drug prescription, they can offer a leaf from that branch I mentioned earlier, a referral of support. You might decide medication is not for you, but you’ve got nothing to lose in trying and everything to gain in working together with your GP to get the balance right so that the medication can do its chemical thing while you work holistically.

Just as you would go to A&E for a broken arm or be rushed into hospital with appendicitis, look after your mind, your frame of mind is everything and the saying “mind over matter” refers to will power, the ability to continue and heal through the mind.

Therapy needs to be normalised and can be life-changing since it helps you make sense of the past and what might seem foggy with careful approaches of suggestions of what might be helpful. A life coach can help you navigate the now and pull you out of that stuck feeling, catapulting you forward. Exercise is the most underestimated drug, meeting the needs of the mind and body.

For some contemplating suicide, there are warning signs and for those mourning, the shock that they seemed fine and happy is too much. That’s why I will never except fine - there’s no crime here, where there’s a will, there is a way - It’s OK To Say!

Life is messy, don’t wait for things to escalate, put things in place to support your everyday needs, it’s OK to feel everything you feel, it’s what you do with it that’s most important.

RIP Mike Thalassitis and lots of love to St Albans City FC.