Baton of Hope: Groundbreaking suicide prevention event - 'The grief is terrible. It doesn’t go away. Every death to Suicide is preventable.’

In a long farewell letter to his family Mike McCarthy’s son wrote: “Please fight for mental health. The support is just not there.”

TV Presenter Mike may have been a journalist for 40 years, but nothing could have prepared him for the news that his 31-year-old son Ross had taken his own life.

Now three years on, Mike has founded suicide prevention charity Baton of Hope which is holding its first national conference with speakers including Alastair Campbell, in a bid to change the way suicide is seen, talked about, and treated.

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Mike’s son Ross experienced severe depression for ten years before seeking treatment. He was put on a six month waiting list but tragically Ross took his own life two weeks later.

Alastair CampbellAlastair Campbell
Alastair Campbell

Mike said: “That's why mental health support is important.

“It’s spurred me on through the grief to try to help other people to avoid the situation we’re now in as a family.

“The grief is terrible. It doesn’t go away.”

More than 6,000 people across the UK and the Republic of Ireland take their own lives each year and the World Health Organisation estimates that 135 people are affected by each death.

Mike McCarthy at Number 10 Downing StreetMike McCarthy at Number 10 Downing Street
Mike McCarthy at Number 10 Downing Street

In a column for The Yorkshire Post, Mike wrote: “In my thirst for information following his death I discovered just how true his dying words were. Three years on I have spoken to countless bereaved loved ones and every single one has shared their aching stories of woefully inadequate, overstretched, under-funded mental health services staffed by overworked nurses and psychiatrists.”

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Last Summer, Mike launched the Baton of Hope, the UK’s biggest ever suicide prevention initiative.

Today (May 16) Mike along with his charity have launched the Workplace Pledge, at the Baton of Hope conference held in Sheffield.

He said: “It's a really varied day - we’ve got two star presenters (TV presenters Christine Talbot and Duncan Wood), some really great speakers. Some really inspirational speakers. We’ve got live entertainment and there’s a play at the end of the day.

Baton of Hope conferenceBaton of Hope conference
Baton of Hope conference

“It’s about suicide but the tone of it is uplifting. Every single one of us has it in us to generate hope for other people.”

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Speaking at the conference today, footballer Will Vaulks, who plays for Sheffield Wednesday and Wales, shared how he lost both of his granddads to suicide when he was a teenager.

He said: “Sadly I lost my grandad Tom in 2006 to suicide and then less than 18 months later I lost my other grandad to suicide.”

After a chance meeting at a ‘talk club event,’ Will bumped into Mike.

Christine Talbot (centre)Christine Talbot (centre)
Christine Talbot (centre)

“I thought that with the platform I have I should probably talk about it as honestly as possible because I’ve been through it.

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“I know what it feels to lose someone to suicide. So I thought it’s time to step up and hopefully help to save some people’s lives,” said Will.

Former ITV Calendar presenters Duncan Wood and Christine Talbot hosted the event at the Octagon Centre with hundreds of people coming together to share facts and debunk myths, develop a new inclusive language around suicide, and support open, honest, caring conversations.

Making Suicide Prevention Everyone’s Business aims to change the way suicide is seen, talked

about, and treated.

Christine said: “It was a privilege to host this event alongside Duncan Wood. Mike is a dear friend and colleague who is passionate about raising the bar on mental health support to fulfil the heartfelt last wish of his son Ross. “Today was inspiring, educational and even uplifting. The fantastic speakers drove home today’s key message that ‘Suicide is Everyone’s business’ and showed us all how to watch out for those with suicidal feelings or struggling with mental health and how to help. There is hope as today’s very important conversations showed.”

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