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LOU'S TEARS FOR JON; Football boss Macari launches suicide unit.

Byline: JANICE BURNS EXCLUSIVE

CELTIC legend Lou Macari wept yesterday as he helped launch Britain's first suicide prevention centre.

The football hero broke down and couldn't bring himself to talk about the loss of his son Jon at the age of 19.

The teenager turned to booze and cocaine after being released from his contract with Nottingham Forest and hanged himself in April 1999.

Macari now heads suicide prevention charity Facilitate Scotland and was meant to be the main speaker at the memorial service and dedication ceremony in Glasgow Cathedral.

He had planned to talk about Jon but wept openly, too grief-stricken to mention his son's name, as he stood before 200 other mourning families.

Later Macari, now Huddersfield Town FC manager, told the Record the moving words he was unable to share with the congregation.

He said: "Our family will never be the same again. We have to accept what Jon did and learn to live again.

"We have to learn not to feel guilty about what we should have said or done. We have to move forward because it is only through us that the loving, funny Jon will be remembered."

Lou, 52, and his wife Dale are still struggling with their tragic loss.

He said: "I've played for 138,000 people at Hampden Park but standing in front of all those people was the most difficult thing I have ever done.

"With every word I could see Jon's face. I just couldn't get my words out. I never imagined a child of mine would take his life. It has been devastating.

"I blamed myself for not seeing the signs. You think maybe he would still be alive today if I had known what to look out for."

He spoke of how his son's suicide had changed his life and how he now treats rejected young football hopefuls with kid gloves.

He said: "Since Jon's death, I am much more mindful when it comes to dealing with young lads.

"My job is to find good young footballers but the casualty rate of youngsters is probably 95 per cent.

"I have realised that rejection can damage these lads and I have to be very careful how I deal with it.

"I now take time to let them know that although they have no future with one club, there is still hope of a good career."

Facilitate's new unit in Wellington Street, Glasgow, has 100 counsellors on hand from 11am to 9pm seven days a week to help those in despair.

Boss Betty Maxwell-Carter said: "Suicide will be the main cause of death for men under 25 by 2020 unless we do something."
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 21, 2002
Words:443
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