The UK’s largest suicide awareness and prevention initiative is coming to Newcastle to open up necessary conversations about the biggest killer of people under 35.
The Baton of Hope was founded by journalists Mike McCarthy and Steve Phillip who were brought together after the death of their sons.
In June the baton will start in Glasgow and travel through towns and cities across the UK for two weeks before reaching Downing Street hoping to spread the message ‘Where there is HOPE, there is a real opportunity to save lives.’
Jayne Walsham, the project lead for the Newcastle leg of the baton’s journey, lost her own daughter, Jodi, to suicide over two years ago when she was just 23-years-old.
“The baton is designed to break down stigma around suicide so people will talk. That’s the problem with mental health, it’s been a taboo subject for many many years,” says Jayne.
“This event is for Jodi, everything I do is for Jodi. This is where my grief is going. I have nothing else to do.”
The baton will be carried by those who have lost loved ones to suicide and each city will have its own unique route. Jayne is sure Newcastle’s is the longest.
As Jayne says: “I want to take in as much of the North East as I possibly can.”
Starting at 8am on 27th June, the relay will start in Northumberland Park, North Shields before slowly making its way to St James’ Park.
It will travel to the Spanish City, along Whitley Road and Coach Lane to the Freeman Hospital and Jesmond Dene, before going to the Ouseburn and along the Quayside.
The baton will stop at Greys Monument, Newcastle University and the RVI before arriving at St James’.
Along the way there will be events to honour the emergency services, local mental health charities and will involve grassroots football.
Jayne was adamant football would play an integral role in the Newcastle leg: “Us Geordies know that football is a religion around here. We’re mad about it! Even if we don’t support football we still want them to win and St James’ Park is a temple, it’s not just a football ground. So it’s the perfect place for us to have our end event.”
The event will end with live music from local singer/songwriters, a lot of whom were Jodi’s friends, in the East Stand. Jayne will be performing too.
“When you lose a child you can’t describe it,” explains Jayne. “It’s not supposed to happen, it’s unnatural. My future doesn’t look quite what I expected it to be.”
Jayne’s amazing campaigning has also resulted in her being nominated as one of the Coronation Champions ahead of the ceremony on Saturday.
“People are terrified of the word suicide. I know why Jodi took her own life- I understand now. I’ve done mental health courses and I recognise the signs in Jodi now which I didn’t at the time because of lack of education,” Jayne adds.
“Everyone should be educated; it should be part of our lives.”
You can apply to be a baton bearer here.
Everyone is invited to the Baton of Hope’s tour through Newcastle (27th June) and across the country. The events along the route will be free to attend and more information will be released in due course.
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