#BatonofHope – 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 #BatonOfHope 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 #BatonOfHope?

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

#BatonOfHope is:

  • the passing of a specially designed baton, carried across the country by people who have been impacted by suicide. The #BatonOfHope will pass through regions along the way, where activities will take place, bringing together organisations, communities and public services to inspire hope in those who are struggling to find theirs.
  • a UK-wide initiative bringing together those taking practical actions to reduce the number of suicides and raising awareness of actions others can take
  • a coming together of those trying to create and sustain hope in our lives, with a shared belief that most suicides are preventable
  • a means of connecting people whose lives have been touched by suicide and those who have not previously thought much about suicide prevention or those uncomfortable talking about suicide
  • an inclusive movement embracing those who are working in suicide prevention (paid or volunteer roles), community organisations, policymakers, those who are struggling and need support, the public at large – all who are part of the solution!
  • a means of opening up the conversation about suicide and suicide prevention in a way that reduces the stigma, provides hope, raises awareness of possible actions, and encourages actions that prevent suicides.

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

When will the #BatonOfHope happen?

The #BatonOfHope’s journey to begin in 2023 and tour the United Kingdom. There are many months of planning ahead and we will need the help of many people to make this vision and plan become a reality. But, it will happen!

“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.