Education, changing perceptions and suicide prevention is a key part of your work, as well as now delivering support services. How does both the brand and website support this?
“Launching the new website has been another milestone for the charity. It’s helped us to focus on our core aims and objectives, and to really show what preventative education involves. This isn’t just limited to the work we do in schools and workplaces in terms of presentations and recognised suicide prevention training delivery, but also to highlight key research, resources, guides and signposting information. This means we’ve started to connect and work with other charities and organisations that deal with suicide prevention, and this of course increases our reach, impact and ultimately I hope to fulfil our objective of reducing the number of suicides in our area.
“At the same time, we’ve also recognised the need to speak directly to our growing audience of fundraisers and supporters; whether they be corporate partners or members of the public. Updated sections for news, events and stories now reflect the diverse range of activities taking place. As well as enabling us to slightly shift our tone and perception, this content has fed directly into the recent launch of our new corporate partners programme, the 5th Wheel Club.”
Speaking of the newly formed 5th Wheel Club, we’re really proud and privileged to be one of its first partners. What does the club mean to the charity, and how can others get involved?
“The club was our way of formally acknowledging and celebrating those that support us, whether they be businesses or individuals.
“Its name is filled with meaning, and is another link back to Russ. Like the 5th Wheel of a truck, our 5th Wheel members provide stability to the charity. We simply couldn’t deliver the vital services we do without them.
“Membership publicly shows your support for Headlight Project and in turn raises awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. It can also help companies fulfil their corporate social responsibilities, while added benefits include a free suicide awareness presentation, priority access to programme places, discounts on training and an exclusive annual event. You can head to our site to find out more.”
Now Headlight’s an established charity and brand, what’s next?
“To get those numbers down – the Tees Valley area still has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. We work everyday to achieve this by providing the therapeutic support and trauma therapies that are so desperately needed, but which are not widely available on the NHS or without long waiting lists and educating on prevention.
“Importantly, educating children about why it’s important to talk about feelings and thoughts so they don’t carry emotional baggage with them throughout their lives. I’m sure that if we can do that, we will in turn have a healthier society, less suicides, less depression, less need to medicate and less days off work through illness.”
And what about you? What does the future hold?
“The systems and personnel now in place mean that I’ve been able to focus on my own job as an employment solicitor. People often think the charity is my job but I never started it to make it my living. I suppose I’m the figurehead which as you know I do struggle with at times as it’s not about me, it’s about the team. I give my time now to help others and always in loving memory of Russ, and the special person he was and always will be to me.
“I have a better balance now. Before I was drowning in the work I was trying to do for the charity, as there’s so much involved and we have to be accountable. But I also needed to earn a living for myself and our girls, and be a mam too. I love my job as an employment lawyer, and I recently took up a position at a national professional services firm which reminded me where my skills lie and how hard I’d worked when I was younger to become a solicitor. I never wanted to give that up but because of how far we‘ve come and the people who‘ve helped me including Ian – who coached me to understand my role – it’s helped me gain some of my own time back.
“That time is precious and the girls need me to be there for them. I’m passionate about my job and also about my work at the charity but the girls are my priority. I can say now that my job and my work for the charity are paddling along well together.
“For me, personally, I am in a good place. I never thought I would ever say that after Russ died. I can’t put into words the depths of my despair when he died – my worries about our children and the effect on them, how I would earn a living for both me and Russ, but somehow I’ve survived. I haven’t done that alone, I have the most incredible family and friends who despite seeing me at my worst never gave up on me.