People touched by suicide have taken part in a unique relay in Bristol to raise awareness of what is the biggest killer of people aged under 35.
Baton of Hope has toured UK cities, including Glasgow, Sheffield and Cardiff, and the Bristol leg saw dozens of people carry the object from the SS Great Britain to Ashton Gate Stadium.
It is estimated that 17 people die by suicide every day in the UK, a statistic that organisers behind the project hope to help reduce by spreading awareness of how preventable it is.
The project was co-founded by Mike McCarthy, whose son Ross died in 2021 at the age of 31. At the time of his death, he was two weeks into a six-month wait for therapy, having had depression for a decade.
Mike said: “When Ross died he left a farewell letter and one of the things that he said was ‘Please fight for mental health – the support is just not there’. So I like to believe that I’m doing my bit to honour his memory because he was a good man and a great son and, although it’s never right to take your own life, it’s not the way forward, but I’m proud of a son who saw a cause of be championed in a world that he wouldn’t be part of.”
Among those carrying the baton in Bristol was Winnie Laird, who lost both her father and sister to suicide. Winnie’s sister, Sunetta, died in March this year and the day of the relay (Sunday 2 July) would have been her 30th birthday.
Winnie said: “This has shown me that I’m not alone, that we’re not alone, that there’s loads and loads of other people who’ve lost people to suicide and even people that are potentially thinking about it and hopefully this will be a way to just give people hope – hence Baton of Hope. It is a way to just show there is still hope out there.”
The project lead for Baton of Hope in Bristol, Clare Kemp, said of suicide: “It’s the biggest killer in under 35s, which is shocking when you think of all the different ways that you might think would be the biggest killer. But it’s really important to know that it is a preventable death.”
George Sullivan is part of the Baton of Hope organising team and is a survivor of suicide. He said: “As a survivor I think it’s really important to be seen and be heard and the Baton of Hope is exactly what we’re trying to do with that.
“It’s about showing that mental well-being and suicide prevention should be at the forefront of our society, that we should eliminate the stigma and prejudice surrounding it and really start to have open and safe conversations to help save lives.”
You can find out more about Baton of Hope on its website.