Baton of Hope - breaking the stigma of suicide

On 6th July our Head of Inclusion College, Marie Greenhalgh took part in the Baton of Hope campaign, highlighting the need for greater suicide awareness and support services.  Read about her journey below. 

‘We are breaking stigmas here today’

In June 2023, the Baton of Hope set off from Glasgow on a journey through towns and cities across the UK, reaching London two weeks later.
The aim is to impact the lives of thousands across the country with a simple message: Where there is HOPE, there is a real opportunity to save lives.
Today, I have just been lucky enough to be part of this amazing journey, at Tate Modern Gardens on 6th July. It has been a powerful and emotional day. We heard from organisations that support all aspects of suicide awareness and support:

Baton of Hope, about the charity, the tour and their plans for a 3 digit helpline number
James’ Place

Firefighters Charity
Rain on Me
Andys’ Man Club
Papyrus (whose Hopeline has now gone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
Cruse Bereavement support
Olly’s Future
● Head in the game
● And Diane, author of ‘Bird of Paradise Loss’ who writes about the death of her son Leon who had schizophrenia and sadly died by suicide.They are calling for a change in the law around referrals to mental health support.

I was prepared for it to be an emotional day but what came through from everyone was this sense of community, of shared purpose. Everyone there had been impacted by suicide in some way, but these were people uniting in their grief and sadness to make changes and improve things for people struggling now.
There were also some shocking statistics. In the time that we spent listening to the talks, a man somewhere in the county had died by suicide. On average, a man dies every 2 hours. If someone dies by suicide, the chances of the people left behind also dying by suicide rises to 66%.

NICE guideline changes were talked about, following the death of Olly. Olly was prescribed citalopram just 4 days before his death, over the phone. The guidelines have now been changed so that anyone being prescribed antidepressants for the first time must be seen face to face.
I have met amazing, strong people today. And I hope that I have done my part to raise awareness,
and to show my students that I am here, fighting for them and fighting for change. The message
from all the people I have been talking to, Tim from 3 Dads Walking, Harry from Papyrus, and from
everyone today is that we need to talk about suicide. We need to remove stigma, we need to improve access to help and support. We need to educate people on suicide prevention, how to get help and how to help others. It doesn’t stop here, at Inclusion Hampshire we will continue to do this and to keep going, keep trying to support others calling for change.
I’ll leave you with the words from Deepanshi Gulati, founder of Rain On Me during her incredibly moving speech.

‘I know it’s scary but reach out. It is the bravest thing you can do.’