#BatonofHopeUK – the UK’s largest suicide awareness initiative?

When Mike McCarthy and Steve Phillip, two fathers, bereaved by suicide, got together with mental health champion Ian McClure and suicide prevention advocate, Paul Vittles, to discuss how they could, collectively, make a real and meaningful impact on preventing suicides, it was always likely that something significant was going to happen! None of them quite expected that their conversation would become potentially one of the biggest suicide awareness initiatives the UK has ever experienced.

It was Mike, who raised the possibility of doing a march, possibly to Downing Street that led to a conversation with the others about what the aim of a march would be? They all agreed that it would need to be non party political but it needed to make a powerful statement if it was truly to make an impact and significantly raise awareness about suicide.

But, it also had to be more than simply raising awareness – this initiative needed to open up the conversation around suicide in a way that would motivate people to want to do something practical and that would make a measurable difference.

Following that first conversation in December 2021, within a matter of weeks, the #BatonOfHopeUK went from concept to vision, to mission, to a plan.

Welcome to BatonOfHope

Mike lost his 31 year old son Ross to suicide in February 2021, following a 10 year battle with depression. Steve also lost his 34 year old son to suicide in December 2019, following a long period of clinical anxiety and depression.

Suicide is the biggest killer of men, aged 35-49 in the UK, it is also the second biggest killer of young men aged 15-29 in the world. Suicide does not simply effect men of course. More women experience clinical depression and attempt to take their own lives, with female suicide rates the highest in the UK since 2004.

We mustn’t forget our young people either; the modal age for male suicides on our railways (rail network deaths account for 45% of all suicides) is currently 22. Referrals for self-harm in young people is now at the highest levels since the pandemic began and CAMHS is struggling to keep up with number of enquiries they’re receiving.

Both Mike and Steve are motivated by the personal loss of their own sons. Ian and Paul have also had their own lived experience of trauma, mental health and suicide and have worked extensively in the suicide prevention sector.

What is #BatonOfHopeUK?

The initial concept was founded with a clear belief and understanding that most suicides are preventable, a view shared by many others working in the world of suicide prevention;

“Suicide is never inevitable. It is preventable right up to the final moment” – Source: Professor Rory O’Connor

At the end of June 2022, the BatonOfHopeUK will be officially announced as the UK’s biggest ever suicide awareness and prevention event, touring all 4 nations between June 25th and July 8th 2023. We are now looking to speak with individuals and organisations to act as ambassadors for the #BatonOfHopeUK 2023.

The BatonOfHopeUK is a not-for-profit organisation. Its primary purpose is to help achieve a society where suicides are very rare events by raising awareness about suicide and suicide prevention, opening up conversations about suicide and suicide prevention, and encouraging appropriate action.

One of the world’s top trophy designers (and goldsmiths to the Queen) has agreed to design and create a baton that will travel the length and breadth of the UK. A major events management and marketing company is helping to build the #BatonofHopeUK brand and the website, which will go live at the end of June 2022. Our aim is to seek to change the conversation around suicide, smash the stigma, highlight existing support and leave a lasting legacy of practical improvements in the field of suicide prevention.

We also want to communicate just how important (and overlooked) the issue of suicide is. From a “soft” public launch at the end of this month, we aim to reach a crescendo during which the #BatonofHopeUK will tour England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the Summer of 2023.

Do you share our vision and ambition? Would you like to be an important part of the #BatonOfHopeUK?  Could you help spread the word or perhaps help coordinate regional activities? Are there other ways you’re already thinking about, where you could help us make this the nation’s biggest suicide prevention campaign ever? Do you have particular skills, knowledge, contacts, etc that you think might be especially relevant? Together we can bring about real change.

During the next few months, we will be holding a series of presentations, outlining our plans and sending out invitations to those who would like to take part.  If you would like to be considered as an ambassador for the #BatonOfHopeUK or support this event in any other way, we will be providing full details when our new website launches by the end of June 2022.

Remember London 2012?

For anyone living in the UK in 2012, the Olympic torch bearing processions were one of the highlights of that summer’s games. People flocked to the roadsides or watched on screens, as a white-track suited individual, who had their own special life-story, carried the golden aluminium, triangular torch through their local town or city before handing it on to another torch bearer, dressed in the same white Olympic track suit.

The passing of the Olympic torch brought a sense of togetherness and community around the country. It was a symbol of hope and expectation of what could be achieved together for those participating and those watching on from the roadside. The #BatonOfHope will do the same to inspire hope that, collectively, we can move toward a Zero Suicide society where suicides are rare events

“People attempt to take their own life when they feel trapped and there is no way out” ; Professor Rory O’Connor

Please follow the hashtag #BatonOfHopeUK on social media for regular updates. You can also subscribe to The Jordan Legacy website to receive direct updates on the #BatonOfHope and other projects relating to our work in helping prevent suicides.

More information about the #BatonOfHope coming soon.