Former South Shields soldier using limited edition Newcastle Brown Ale bottles to raise awareness of male suicide
A South Shields woman is urging men not to ‘bottle it up’ after losing her best friend to suicide.
Former soldier Sarah Weavers met Karl Smith in 2008 when she joined 9 Regiment Army Air Corps in Dishforth, North Yorkshire where they served together.
Karl, from Crook, was later discharged from service after damaging his hearing and struggled to adjust to civilian life. Tragically, on May 7, 2018 he took his own life.
“Karl was the first person I met and we just hit it off,” said Sarah.
“I’ve still got all the letters that we wrote to each other when we were in Afghanistan.
“He was an all round top bloke and an amazing best friend. He was a Geordie through and through, and such a massive Newcastle United fan.”
Earlier this year she contacted Karl’s favourite tipple, Newcastle Brown Ale, to enquire about getting a limited edition bottle for his dad this Christmas.
The company not only designed a special icon of the north label in Karl’s memory, but sent a crate of 12 bottles to the family.
“We couldn’t believe what they did. We burst into tears when we saw them, it was amazing,” said Sarah.
“I’ve had hundreds of messages from collectors but they are too precious to sell.”
The gesture inspired Sarah to start a campaign raising awareness of male suicide and mental health issues using the slogan Don’t Bottle it Up!
“It’s really common for people to bottle everything up, especially lads,” she said.
“If Karl had mentioned anything about what he was going through, he would still be here now. Nobody realised what was going on.”
She continued: “It’s to try and make everyone a little bit more mindful of the subject and to stop that toxic masculinity of bottling things up. It’s Christmas, so what better way to do spread the message than on the beer bottles?”
Sarah has now contacted Newcastle Brown Ale and other breweries in the North East with the idea, in hopes they may want to get involved.
She added: “I’m just so grateful for what Newcastle Brown Ale have done.
“I really think it’s made a difference already.”