Why I carried the Baton of Hope
Clare Chambers, Suicide Prevention Therapist, James’ Place Liverpool
Baton of Hope is a wonderful project aiming to connect individuals who have experienced suicidal thoughts/behaviours, those family and friends bereaved by suicide and charities and agencies working to reduce deaths by suicide. I am very honoured on both a personal level and also professionally to be part of this first Baton tour. It is a beautiful way to honour those who have died by suicide and to say that collectively we are up for the challenge of reducing future deaths.
Why I wanted to carry the Baton
I applied for this project for several reasons. I work for a suicide prevention charity James’ Place but my relationship with suicide started before I moved to this job. As a young person I experienced issues with my mental health related to adverse childhood experiences. I got through these but in my adult working life, I began to experience work stress which unaddressed resulted in depression and anxiety. In 2015, after a couple of short periods of being off work due to my mental health, I became much worse than I had ever before. I had experienced feelings of being trapped and stuck in my unhealthy workplace and had a period of ‘not wanting to be here,’ struggling to get out of bed. Despite this, I remained in work and began taking antidepressants. Unfortunately, a few months later the depression and stress continued and resulted in me making an attempt on my life. I have never felt so desperate or trapped and hopeless. I was so scared that this was what my brain was telling me, I don’t think I wanted to die but I just believed I couldn’t continue with the situation as it was. Looking back, it feels alien now how blinkered my thinking had become due to the severe depression. Like many others who experience suicidal thoughts I mistakenly believed I was a burden to those around me and that they would be better off without me. The one thing that stopped me going through with the actions to end my life was the thought of my partner discovering my body. When he did get home, he knew something was wrong and as frightened as I was, I told him. I saw my GP the next day and was referred to the mental health team who I saw approximately 4-6 weeks later after support from the Crisis team.
Mental health had always been an area of interest in my working life and following my own experiences of suicidality, I wanted to help, but I also knew I needed to change my employment. It was following this suicide attempt that a year later I started my journey into counselling training. Very sadly in 2016 a school friend, Iain McJannet took his life and then 2018 a second school friend, Nicky Watson also died by suicide. Both men had families and, on the outside, it looked like life was good. I was shocked. Research tells us that for every death by suicide 135 people are impacted. Both friends were not close with me, I had moved to Liverpool after college however we had kept in touch over social media and the effects of their deaths felt, even as a person quite removed from them, immense. Both deaths really hit me hard. It made me reflect on my own experiences and brought the reality of the potential impact I could have left for my family and friends.
In 2018 as I was finishing my counselling training, I saw James’ Place open in Liverpool. I remember saying to myself ‘I want to work there.’ My background of 20+ years in Probation gave me so much experience of working with and managing risk. Roll on one year and I qualified as a Person -Centred Counsellor and successfully applied for the Suicide Prevention Therapist role. The work we do at James’ Place is life-saving. Our unique service of quick access and the ‘lay your cards on the table’ intervention, in conjunction with our highly trained therapists and the calming nonclinical environment provides a ‘cocoon of safety’ as described by one gentleman using our service. Men are seen as soon as possible following referral, this can be and often is as quick as the very next day, (excluding weekends). It is an absolute privilege to work with the men who walk through our doors. My job is about hope and building that in the men who no longer have this or are really struggling to see anyway forward. Seeing the progress that they make within our sessions is astounding and reassuring.
We know our intervention works. We have just celebrated five years in Liverpool and have expanded to London who also have just celebrated their one-year anniversary. We want more men who need it to be able to access our life-saving service and we plan to open three more centres in cities in England over the next few years, with Newcastle opening later this year.
Mental wellbeing can improve. Suicide is not inevitable and is completely preventable. The more we all can talk about suicide as a society, the more people will feel they can reach out and access support. I am pleased to be a part of Baton of Hope and support their vision of a world 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.
Find out more about Baton of Hope
Access support from James’ Place here