Baton of Hope Tour to visit Birmingham rarsing awareness of suicide

Baton of Hope - designed by Thomas Lyte

The Baton of Hope, the biggest suicide prevention initiative the UK has ever seen, will visit Birmingham in July on the first ever tour of its kind.

Highlighting the suicide crisis that sees 17 people take their own lives every day, the charity’s Baton, its iconic physical symbol, will embark on a tour of 12 cities across the UK, starting in Glasgow on Sunday 25th June and culminating in a trip to Downing Street on Thursday 6th July.

The Baton will bring a unifying message of hope to the thousands of people across the country that are suffering as a result of suicide bereavement or personal mental ill health, visiting Birmingham on Monday 3rd July.

A unique and magnificent piece, the Baton has been made by Thomas Lyte, goldsmiths and silversmiths to the late Queen Elizabeth II, and makers of the Emirates FA Cup and Rugby World Cup’s Webb Ellis Trophy.

Throughout the tour, the Baton will be carried by notable personalities, those with lived experience of mental ill health, and people with their own inspiring stories of hope. This includes charity ambassadors and supporters Dr Alex George, the UK Youth Mental Health Ambassador; Sheffield Wednesday and Wales midfielder, Will Vaulks and Norman Cook, aka DJ Fatboy Slim.

In Birmingham, among the bearers will be Olympic Gold Medallist Chris Boardman, a prominent advocate for mental health. The Tour leg will begin at Alexander Stadium, the home of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, with Boardman handing the Baton to the first bearer.

Project leads for the Birmingham leg are Martin Schleicher and Victoria Wright, who lost her husband to suicide. Matthew Wright was a professional three day event rider and, after battling depression for many years, took his own life in February 2021. Victoria and Matthew had set up Riders Minds to support the mental health of those within the equestrian community and the charity has gained the backing of the International Federation for Equestrian Sports and the International Olympic Committee. Victoria said:

"When I learned what the Baton of Hope was about, I knew I wanted to be involved and volunteered my and Martin’s services.

"After my husband lost his battle with mental ill health, I wanted to teach my children that we can all make a difference; that something incredibly negative can be turned into something positive if we’re willing to commit to making a change.

"This Tour can be the start of that change, with the Baton acting as a unifying symbol that can honour Matthew and the countless others who felt that they had no other choice. No matter how dark times are, the message must be that there is always hope.”

After handover from Boardman, Team GB athletes will carry the Baton to Villa Park, where partner charities of the Aston Villa Foundation will showcase how they are using football as therapy. Moving to West Midlands Police HQ, Chief Constable Craig Guildford will address the issue of mental ill health.

From here, the Baton will ride with charity partners aboard a ‘Chariot of Charity’, a special tram carriage provided by Transport for West Midlands, as it makes its way to New Street Station. On its arrival, it will visit the Tackling Loneliness Bus, which is part of TFWM’s ‘Let’s Chat’ Campaign.

Arts and culture will play an important role in the day’s events, with a musical tribute to the work of the Birmingham LGBTQ+ Centre for mental health taking place at the Hippodrome Square Gay Village, and performances focusing on the arts as therapy at Edgbaston MAC Theatre.

After talks by Papyrus and other leaders in youth mental health at the University of Birmingham, the Baton will reach Centenary Square, where Mayor Andy Street will address guests, followed by live performances.

The Baton of Hope was co-founded by Mike McCarthy, whose son Ross battled depression for a decade before taking his own life in 2021. Ross left behind a young son, a fiancée, and a heartfelt request that his family campaign for better mental health support and Mike is committed to honouring this final wish through the charity.

Mike adds, “The significance of this event cannot be overestimated. For the first time, a physical symbol that can be passed from bearer to bearer – from sufferer to sufferer – is spreading a message that we needn’t struggle alone.

“I am deeply moved and humbled to see truly inspirational people from across the country carry this baton as a symbol of compassion, hope and responsibility.

‘Responsibility’ because everyone of us can play a part in tackling the challenges presented by suicide. For too long, the stigma associated with having the conversations that we so desperately need to have has taken those closest to us. We have a huge mountain to climb in breaking this stigma, raising awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing and re-calibrating our approach to the societal catastrophe created by suicide, but the Baton of Hope Tour marks the start of positive change.”

In less than a year since the Baton of Hope’s inception, it has achieved staggering traction. Over 120 MPs have already pledged to support the charity in its vision of a zero suicide society, such as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who recently commended the charity’s work during Prime Minister’s Questions.

A number of major organisations have also come on board as sponsors, including Alstom, Savills, Starbucks, TFL and Westfield Health. The Baton of Hope Tour is an entirely non-profit initiative, with all donations going to spreading a message of hope to all those affected by suicide or mental ill health.


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