‘We have a vision of a society where suicide and suicide prevention are openly and widely discussed’

Posted 13th June 2023

It symbolises both the serious and emotional subject of suicide and at the same time the growing swell of hope that aspires to a zero-suicide society. A national campaign highlighting suicide prevention is preparing to stop over in Milton Keynes.

There are more than 6,000 suicides in the UK every year. And the Baton of Hope campaign is moving fast towards becoming the UK’s largest suicide prevention initiative.

The initiative is currently on a UK-wide tour promoting its work and is coming to Milton Keynes on July 4 to coincide with a major suicide prevention conference taking place at Stadium MK.

The campaign was founded by fathers Mike McCarthy and Steve Phillip, who met in the wake of the deaths of their sons Ross and Jordan to suicide. “We were brought together through tragic circumstances,” Steve recalls. “Two fathers sharing common grief, each wanting to make a difference and determined that the death of our sons should not be in vain.

“Through our friendship, we recognised that by creating unity of purpose we could shake things up and create a movement that we hope will stop so many people taking their own lives.”

Their vision won government backing last year in the form of then-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid, a decade after publication of the government’s National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England which unveiled a series of actions and commitments by ministers. Mr Javid talked about the importance of providing better and more targeted support to men and women who are dying by suicide.

“Across the sector, progress has been made in the last decade. However, society has also changed in significant ways, bringing new challenges, drivers and risks that we need to tackle. We believe now is the time for us to develop a new and ambitious long-term plan for suicide prevention.”

Baton of Hope MK Schedule of EventsThe Baton of Hope arrives in Milton Keynes on July 4 as part of a two-week UK tour having started in Glasgow and visiting major cities throughout the UK on its way to London. First stop is the MK Rose in Campbell Park for a ceremony in partnership with The Samaritans.

The Baton then visits the Ride High charity in Loughton and Furzton Lake before heading for Stadium MK. After speeches by campaign founder Mike McCarthy and other dignitaries, the Baton heads for the Red Bull Technology Campus at Tilbrook and then to the Tree Cathedral at Newlands where it will be welcomed by the Harry’s Rainbow charity.

The final stop of the day is at the nearby Peace Pagoda where the Baton will be greeted by Milton Keynes scouts with a guard of honour. Mental health charities Mind BLMK and CHUNS will be in attendance.

After its visit to Milton Keynes, the Baton of Hope heads to Brighton before ending its tour in London.

Says campaign co-founder Steve Phillip: “We have a vision of a society where suicide and suicide prevention are openly and widely discussed, where we inspire hope through action, where people are suitably supported, and where everyone plays their part in realising this vision.

“The Baton of Hope is an iconic device that can serve as a unifying symbol for the campaign. We need something that represents the desperately serious and highly-charged subject of suicide while at the same time promoting the ocean of hope and optimism at the heart of the mission.”

To find out more visit https://batonofhopeuk.org/