AN Assembly Member aims to use the power of football to save lives and prevent the 'devastation' of suicide.

Jack Sargeant, AM for Alyn and Deeside, has teamed up with football clubs across Wales for Suicide Prevention Day today.

The campaign, called the 84, aims to promote the message on September 10, that it is okay to not be okay.

Mr Sargeant, along with Cardiff City FC, Swansea City AFC Football Club, Newport County FC, Wrexham AFC and Connah's Quay Nomads, will spend the day using social media to promote positive messages in a bid to prevent male suicide.

The Assembly Member told the Leader: "The issue of mental health and suicide is a national crisis.

"The facts are that 84 men a week take their own lives in the UK which works out to be one every two hours.

"I brought it to the table and all the football clubs have been fully behind it, to promote the message that it's fine to speak out. You are not alone.

"The campaign will be big. It's a social media campaign and the club, myself and as many players as possible will post online.

"Each club has also committed to posting an awareness piece in each match programme and online.

"We are using the power of football to save lives. By the time the final whistle blows on a Sunday league match or a Championship fixture, 84 men will have committed suicide that week. Those statistics are shocking and unacceptable."

Mr Sargeant lost his dad, Carl Sargeant, to suicide in 2017 and he said it has devastated his whole family.

An inquest into the death of the former minister was concluded as suicide but John Gittins, senior coroner for North Wales (east and central) said that more must be done to support outgoing ministers.

Jack Sargeant added: "Any suicide is too much but currently if you look at male suicide, it's the biggest killer and the biggest cause in young men.

"We want to use the power of football to help men get together with their mate and open up and say they are struggling. There's nothing wrong with that, we are there for you.

"We are also getting the players involved to promote healthy relationships and the message of good mental health.

"For the younger generation, they will see their idols sharing this message that it's okay to not be okay.

"I have seen the devastation of suicide and what it does to friends and family. It's not a short term fix. My mental health suffered as a consequence dramatically and will continue to suffer dramatically for many, many years I imagine.

"But as much as it's difficult to speak out, if it makes one person feel better and say they need support then I will do it every day."

Also involved in the campaign will be the Offside Trust charity and it is hoped that more football clubs will get on board next year.

Since his election in 2018, Mr Sargeant has pledged to help those who are going through a similar thing, and help those suffering with their mental health.

He said: "I've always spoken out about it, especially since the circumstances surrounding me. I've always found it difficult to speak and open up about it, which many people do.

"However, I can and will share my experience as much as possible. Suicide happens every day. Mental health happens every day.

"Hopefully this campaign will continue and the following year more clubs will get involved."

Recent data from the Office of National Statistics shows that, between 2016 and 2018, 48 people took their own life in Flintshire. A further 38 suicides were recorded in Wrexham, both of which have increased compared to earlier years.

Around 223 suicide verdicts were returned at inquests across North Wales in that period of time, including people from Denbighshire, Conwy, Gwynedd and the Isle of Anglesey.

Mr Sargeant added: "However difficult it is, just remember you are not alone and there's no right or wrong way with dealing with things. There's no easy way of dealing with things, but people will help you get through that.

"It's not a bad thing to be having a bad day, I think we all do sometimes, but days can be worse that others.

"There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Don't be afraid to speak out and access that help you need, whether a friend or professional."

Those needing support can contact multiple helplines. The Samaritans can be contacted for free, 24/7 by calling 116 123, or MIND can be contacted on 0300 123 3393.