Music stars, sporting heroes, Olympians and royalty are all backing the UK’s biggest ever suicide prevention initiative that embarked on a nationwide tour this morning.
The Baton of Hope tour kicked off in Glasgow with an Olympic-style torch being carried by survivors, bereaved families and a host of familiar faces determined to change the national conversation around suicide.
Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, will be part of the leg through his home city of Brighton.
Olympic champion cyclist Chris Boardman, Sheffield Wednesday and Wales International Will Vaulks, former Downing St spokesman Alastair Campbell and mental health campaigner Dr Alex George are just some of the thousands of people taking part in the tour.
The Royal Family is also expected to be represented on the tour – Zara Tindall has already spoken of her support for the initiative.
Baton of Hope was founded by Mike McCarthy, a former Sky News correspondent, who lost his own son Ross two years ago, and a group of other bereaved families and survivors of suicide.
During the first leg of the walk between Glasgow and and Edinburgh he said: “This is for everybody. We have to smash the stigma and change the way we think and talk about suicide.
“It’s a very emotional day for me personally but we are determined to bring about lasting change.”
Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Vaulks said: “The reason I wanted to get involved with the Baton of Hope is because at the age of 13 I lost my Grandad Tom to suicide and then 18 months later I lost my other Grandad Hywel again to suicide.
“I have first-hand experience of the impact this has on the families of these so dearly loved ones and I feel privileged to be invited to help spread a message of hope to as many people as possible so that ultimately we can save lives that are tragically taken by suicide.
“Mental health really wasn’t spoke about when I lost my grandads, depression was about the only word used.”
The 29-year-old added: “We have come a long way since then but we have so far to go as we are still losing a devastating amount of young and old, men and women to suicide.
“It’s the first time I’ve spoken publicly about my grandads but I feel the time is right and I’m ready to be a part of this cause. Let’s change the narrative on suicide and help save lives, so that families like mine and Mike’s don’t have to lose any more loved ones.”
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The tour will visit some of the UK’s best known landmarks across 12 cities including some of the nation’s best-known sporting venues.
Villa Park in Birmingham, Bramall Lane and Hillsborough in Sheffield, Arsenal’s Emirates stadium, the Cardiff City stadium and St James’ Park in Newcastle are just some of the venues hosting events on the tour.
Many locations will be open to the public who are encouraged to use it as an opportunity to discuss mental health and find out what practical steps they can take to help prevent suicide.
Alongside the baton route, workshops in suicide prevention and first aid training sessions will be held in some of the host cities.
The tour is scheduled to end on 6 July with the Baton of Hope being taken along the river Thames and through famous landmarks in the capital before it ends its journey in Westminster.
Where the tour will visit:
Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email [email protected] in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK
Written by: Newsroom