Teesside charity brightens up January to promote better mental health in children

  • Video report by Julia Barthram

A charity has launched a campaign to brighten up January and help promote resilient mental health in children.

The Headlight Project was set up in January 2019 in memory of local businessman, Russ Devereux, who took his own life in 2018.

The charity aims to reduce the number of deaths by suicide through the therapy of those bereaved by suicide and preventative education and training.

The charity is encouraging people to brighten up January and talk about how they feel.

Children at Fairfield Primary School in Stockton have been wearing bright clothes instead of their uniform, in support of the charity's campaign.

Headteacher Andy Ruffell said: "We want to try and help children protect themselves from becoming one of those awful statistics that we often see in the North East region.

"We do say to children that feeling sad is sometimes normal. We're not all going to be happy all of the time but we want to be happy more of the time.

"We want to help each other and look out for each other to help encourage everybody to feel more happy and know who to turn to when you need that sort of support."

The North East has had the highest rate of suicide in the country for six out of the past 10 years. In 2021, there were 14.1 deaths per hundred thousand people.

There were 328 deaths altogether, one every 27 hours - taking the rate to a five year high.

Catherine Devereux, from The Headlight Project, said: "We've got to start thinking about our mental health and our mind.

"Our brain is the biggest organ in our body and yet we give it the least attention a lot of the time. 

"To open that conversation with children when they are young is the first steps of how we tackle those numbers at the very end of the scale."

Naomi Haigh, died by suicide in 2021, and her family are being helped by the charity.

Julia Haigh, Naomi's mother said: "She struggled with her mental health for over 10 years and I think we've always feared this unfortunately.

"But she was always very open with us and she talked about feeling suicidal but that's not the case for some people. 

"We knew quite a few people - other than who we have met through the hub - who have lost loved ones in this area. It is almost like an epidemic, it is serious."

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