Bereaved families tour Cardiff with Baton of Hope in UK-wide suicide prevention initiative

  • Cardiff baton-bearer Rachel Whiting lost her husband Michael and sister Sarah to suicide

Families affected by suicide are touring some of Cardiff's best-known landmarks with the Baton of Hope - a baton designed to raise awareness and spark conversation around suicide.

Suicide is the biggest killer of men and women under 35 in the UK, with more than 6,500 suicides in 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics.

In Wales, between 300 and 350 people die by suicide each year.

The Baton of Hope is aimed to be the biggest suicide awareness and prevention initiative the UK has ever seen.

It has already toured Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester and Belfast and after Cardiff will head to Bristol, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Brighton and London.

The Baton of Hope arrived at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay on Saturday morning.

Cardiff baton-bearer Rachel Whiting lost both her husband Michael and sister Sarah to suicide.

She said: "There needs to be a change in the system. The system are failing us and they have failed our loved ones.

"Suicide is not becoming an epidemic, it is an epidemic."

Rachel said taking part in the Baton of Hope initiative has helped her deal with her grief.

"It's nice to know that you're not on your own, you don't feel so isolated because when you are bereaved by suicide it is a very, very isolating bereavement to go through," she said.

"To be with everyone today, share our stories, share our experiences and hold each other up, it's been fantastic to find that support within one another."

Belinda Gardiner, who runs Clydach Men's Shed, also carried the baton on Saturday.

The project brings both men and women together and encourages members to talk about their mental health.

"At the shed we have saved lives and we point people in the right direction to get support and help," Belinda said.

"I think it's a really important issue, everyone should hear more about this because people are losing their lives, the statistics are horrendous.

"More people need to get involved to get support out there to people who need it."

Lynne Neagle MS, Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, carried the baton to the Senedd.

The relay started in Cardiff Castle before arriving at the Senedd, where the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing picked up the baton, and finished in Cardiff Arms Park.

Project lead coordinator for Cardiff Baton of Hope Ian Loader said: "The Baton of Hope is an attempt to have a national conversation around suicide - suicide being the biggest killer of the under-35s.

"Everybody who's carrying the baton is somebody who has lost somebody through suicide.

"It's been very powerful talking to people as they go through Cardiff, listening to their stories and listening to how suicide has affected them, and how mental health services maybe have failed them, or how they feel things could be better.

"The single biggest message from all of this is about communication and talking."

The Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing thanked organisers and attendees for "making a difference in the world of suicide prevention".

Lynne Neagle MS said: "Everyone is talking about this and that's what we want.

"We want everybody having those conversations to break down the stigma about suicide and to make people realise that there is help out there."

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