‘We felt like a lost community’ Woman launches North East charity in memory of brother to support suicide loss

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Natalie Kirk has launched Billy’s Lifeline to support families following the loss of a loved one to suicide.

A brand-new charity is being launched in the North East dedicated to supporting families and individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide. 

Billy’s Lifeline will provide immediate and ongoing therapeutic, emotional and practical support services to those impacted by suicide bereavement. 

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46-year-old Natalie Kirk from South Shields has founded Billy’s Lifeline in memory of her brother, Billy Knott who tragically took his own life in September 2019. 

After his death, Natalie and her family found that was a lack of immediate support for those impacted by suicide loss. 

Natalie explained: “Losing someone to suicide is a difficult, painful and individual journey.

“We had no professional advice or practical guidance when dealing with his personal affairs and found access to resources and emotional support limited at best. 

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“We also battled with the stigma attached to losing someone this way which meant that people and professionals sometimes did not know what to say, how to help or even who to sign post us to. This left a lot of people feeling alone and isolated in their grief with nowhere to turn.

“Coping with this situation left us with a lot of unanswered questions and made it difficult for us to process our grief, rationalise the situation or move forward with our healing.

“Unfortunately, when someone loses someone to suicide it can lead to what is known as complicated grief due to the trauma.

“There was nowhere for us to go, we felt like a lost community.”

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In 2020, Natalie enrolled at The Open University to study Psychology, to understand more about suicide and mental health.

She explained: “What I realised is the ripple effect of losing someone to suicide, it can affect up to around 60 people. It really took me back, but it also made sense.”

After completing her degree, Natalie had the idea of launching Billy’s Lifeline to prevent other families from feeling lost and lonely following the death of a loved one to suicide.

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“I went out into the community and spoke to people who had lost someone to suicide, and a lot of people felt unsupported and unheard,” Natalie explained. 

She also explained that it is not just the grief that people impacted by suicide bereavement have to deal with as it also may impact housing or jobs.

“It catapults a lot of other issues and problems when that support is not there,” Natalie said.

“Our goal with Billy’s Lifeline is to be able to step in as soon as possible, listen to what the people need, and work out where we can best support them.

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“It’s all about listening to what the people are saying, and where they feel we can help. We don’t have all the answers, but what we don’t know we will try to find out, or sign post people to a service that might be fitting to them.”

Billy's LifelineBilly's Lifeline
Billy's Lifeline | Natalie Kirk

Billy’s Lifeline will offer both short and long-term support, which can be done over the phone and in person. This is available as one-to-one or a group session.

Natalie explained: “We are here to support you practically, emotionally, and therapeutically through your journey. We listen in confidence and understand that everyone’s situation is unique but look to find what is important to you and how we can best support you through our various services.”

Billy’s Lifeline will offer a ‘befriending’ service which will offer individuals with practical support such as help with shopping or even just a friendly face to chat with over a cup of tea, or a stroll along the beach. 

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They will also be on hand to help with managing personal affairs as Natalie explained: “We understand this can be challenging and upsetting to deal with after you have lost a loved one. This support can range from writing letters, helping with funeral arrangements, attending an inquest or simply sourcing the right people to do the right job.”

The charity has also received funding from The National Lottery for respite breaks and access to private therapy.

Billy’s Lifeline is still in the process of securing a premises, which will allow them to expand on their support for individuals in need. 

For more information on Billy’s Lifeline, please visit their website.

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