Category Archives: Politics Blog

There’s another crisis looking, even more deadly and destructive than Coronavirus and this time we must act.

There’s another crisis looking, even more deadly and destructive than Coronavirus and this time, we must act.  We can not afford to turn away any longer.  Dealing with the Covid-19 crisis has got me thinking all the more about this next big crisis yet to come. The Climate crisis. It is going to hurt our nation and the globe in ways never imagined.  We must be prepared. We have now lived through a crisis, we have seen how quickly we needed to, but could adapt, how behaviours and ways of doing things, we never imagined possible were implemented within days. We also learned how timing is imperative. The point at which the country went into lockdown, when mass gatherings were stopped and when social distancing was introduced, all determined ultimately, how many lives would be saved.

The world’s best scientists have been warning us about the climate crisis for 40 years, their voices getting louder yet in the 40 years since we were first warned, despite many ordinary people’s best efforts, carbon emissions have risen by 60%. More CO2 in the air, means ultimately more warming of the planet. Year on year we reach record temperatures. When we reach 1.5 degrees warmer, it is game over. Life on this planet as we know it will collapse. We don’t have decades, we have years. But getting there will mean dealing with it like it really is. A crisis.

Since lockdown was called in February, cars were parked and planes grounded. Despite this, the amount of Co2 in our atmosphere still broke records in April.

The truth is, no matter how many envelopes we recycle and bean burgers we buy, we don’t have the power as individuals to make the big changes we need to stop this crisis. But as political leaders we do.

The coronavirus has showed us something astounding- we have proven that it is possible to put the old system on hold, that money can found to get us through a crisis, and that leaders can when it comes to it, put people’s lives above profits.

The question now is, do we go back to life as normal, or do we create and prepare for a new normal, a better normal, a normal that ensures a healthy and safe environment for our kids, a normal where people’s well being is given the same credence as the economy.

So let’s stop and ask ourselves, what don’t we want to come back as we move on from the Coronavirus? What can be done better? What can we do ourselves? How can we improve our communities? What can our governments do, local, regional and national?

In this country, we have all the tools, and the money we need to solve the climate crisis. They just need to be implemented.

We must demand it for our futures sake.

There are so many ideas we could begin to put in place in the Tees Valley, and we must begin by calling a Tees Valley Climate Emergency.

Some simple ideas that could  be pushed through at a Tees Valley level are

  • Supporting flexible and home working, providing incentives, guidance and recognition to companies who implement this
  • A Tees Valley environmental awards, support and framework, to support and recognise those businesses who are going above and beyond in reducing emissions and contributing to a zero carbon future
  • Increase funding to low carbon jobs, training, research and industries
  • Ensuring investment funds of local and combined authorities follows climate tackling industries, zero carbon initiatives and is divested away from fossil fuel related industries
  • Post Covid-19, build back better funding for businesses could have climate and emissions targets attached
  • Create a community energy fund and incentives for community energy and retrofitting scheme development
  • Setting up a people’s assembly on climate
  • Significant investment in cycle use including financial support for e-bikes and cargo bikes alongside fast tracking cycle route development
  • Prioritising public transport investment, including fast tracking developments at Darlington Station

These are just a few of the things we could be spearheading, there are more. But one thing I am sure of is with leadership, bravery and vision we can build back a better Tees Valley for people and for the planet. We can avert the crisis but we must do it now.

 

 

 

 

 

Sirius, the Conservative Minister and his Billionaire Friend – We are definitely not all in this together!

As revelations of Conservative donors and lucrative businesses deals, aided by friends in Government emerge, I have been deeply angered but not surprised. I have been doing some of my own investigating of the links between the Conservatives and deals done in this area and I have been left with many more questions than answers. The Conservatives have done a remarkable job at convincing working class, poorer voters that they are on their side, but the façade can not last. It is our job as opposition to expose the truth, and I and my team will be doing just that over the coming months. We will leave no rock unturned.

Firstly – let’s talk about Sirius Minerals.  According to an article in The Guardian, Secretary of State for Housing Robert Jenrick, met with Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer in March 2018 while Jenrick served as exchequer secretary to the Treasury. The meeting between Jenrick and Ofer, the ultimate owner of UK mining firm Cleveland Potash, happened while Jenrick was determining whether to offer state support for a new potash mine being built by Sirius Minerals. The new mine would have posed serious competition for Ofer’s own mining operations. The application for funding was later rejected by the government.

A great deal of hope as well as hard cash has been invested in the plans for a £3bn polyhalite mine near Whitby, linked by an underground conveyor to processing plant on Teesside.

Conservative politicians have been happy to associate themselves with Sirius when it provided PR opportunities. Ben Houchen, Conservative Tees Valley Mayor, has talked about it regularly in the press and it being a sign of confidence in Teesside.

Sirius began asking for Government support for the project in 2018, with Ben Houchen backing their call for a loan guarantee. Robert Jenrick was assessing that request. But back in March 2018, Jenrick had met Idan Ofer, now acknowledged to be a “family friend”.  Ofer was the ultimate owner of Cleveland Potash – a rival of Sirius, also aiming to grab a share of the global market for polyhalide fertiliser. So there’s a conflict of interest. Jenrick recognised this and eventually stepped aside from decision making regarding the Sirius aid request. What we don’t yet know is WHEN he told his officials, or when he last had any input into the decision making process.

In January 2019 Theresa May (then PM) confirmed that funding guarantees were being discussed between the Government and Sirius Minerals and that although details were commercially sensitive it was exactly the sort of project that the Northern Powerhouse is all about: driving investment, driving exports, good for the north. City broker Liberum responded positively – keeping share prices from tanking.

BUT, in March 2019, another firm belonging to Ofers (as explained above, the owner of Cleveland Potash, rival to Sirius, and friend of Robert Jenrick), Quantum Pacific UK Corporation, donated £10,000 to the Conservatives. They’d never given to the Conservative Party up to that point.

In September 2019, the government refused Sirius Minerals request for support. This left the company is serious difficulties, unable to raise further finances and the share price hit rock bottom.

Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen continued to be upbeat. In a statement, Houchen claimed that he was in daily contact with the Managing Director of Sirius and remained confident

In the run up to the December 2019 General Election, Simon Clarke was campaigning in Middlesbrough with Liz Truss.  Reportedly, she was the one who picked up responsibility for deciding on the Sirius Aid request after Jenrick had eventually let go of the case, but Truss said “It’s not something I’ve made a direct decision on”.

So was she the decision maker? She doesn’t seem to be taking the credit (or blame) for it, but if it wasn’t her, and it wasn’t Jenrick, who was it?

Sirius by now was desperate to find a way to keep the project going, and had to accept a cut-price deal from Anglo American in January 2020. This wiped out the savings of thousands of small investors, many of them ordinary North Yorkshire and Teesside residents who’d been drawn to the exciting project right on their doorstep. Ofer could stand to gain from the delays and disruption to the rival Sirius plans.

So that’s the story of the Government failure to back Sirius. A failure that cost jobs, delayed the project – scaled back and only recently resuming work under the new owners – and led to many small shareholders losing their life savings.

But that is not all 

This is not the first time Robert Jenrick has been involved in controversy – Mr Jenrick struggled to get planning permission for an extension to one of his London homes until Conservative councillors intervened to approve it.

In his current role as Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick is under pressure over allegations that he rushed through a £1bn development in order to help a wealthy Conservative Party donor save £45 million (money that would have gone to the local council). Jenrick had met Mr Desmond at a Conservative fundraising dinner and his decision on the development was challenged in the High Court over the ‘appearance of bias’. Jenrick did not contest the case. He still has his job as Secretary of State.

And this is the point, the idea that we are all in this together, that we have the same rules and abilities to influence decisions regardless of who we are is the biggest con in living history. Money talks. Friends in high places help each other. Look at  Britain’s top 100 rich list, 1/3 of them are Conservative donors according to the Huffington Post. But it goes beyond this, it is about connections, friendships, schools you went to and clubs you were a part of. Which parties do you attend together, who do you sit next to at a fundraising dinner. Believe me, the Conservatives do not sit next to the likes of you and me. We are not in their club. We don’t get to influence decisions.

I want answers, not just in these decisions about Sirius, but in many other areas. We have a Conservative led Combined Authority that is spending millions and millions every year, investing in big projects with different businesses, people and corporations. I want to work on your behalf to ensure that there is accountability, integrity and ultimately fairness in all of those decisions.  We have to be assured that decisions made in the best interests of Teesside people, not because a friend of a friend sat next to a politician at a dinner party. We are watching very, very closely.

Working with Steel River Drinks to deliver Gin hand sanitiser in new Act for Carers Campaign

Jessie Joe Jacobs works with Steel River Drinks to deliver care packages and much needed hand sanitiser to care workers as part of a new Act for Key workers Campaign

Over the past few weeks Jessie Joe Jacobs has been working with the local community across Teesside after setting up Teesside Community Action Group which is a support network focussed on the response to coronavirus.

Teesside Community Action, a coronavirus support network established by Jessie Jacobs has launched a new campaign to help support key workers.

The group has already helped neighbours to care for each other during the crisis, supplied isolated residents with a food delivery service, and launched fundraising campaigns to feed key workers.

Now the group has now launched the Act for Key Workers campaign to show how they can help key workers on Teesside with practical things they can do to help.

As part of this she has worked with Jay Byers from Steel River drinks to get hand sanitiser into care homes. The firm is a distillery with popular products such as Stainsby Girl Gin. With the onset of coronavirus they have moved into production of hand sanitiser

The pair have visited four care homes including Elton Hall Care home and Teesdale lodge in Thornaby delivering the hand sanitiser alongside biscuits donated by TK Maxx for the 20 workers at the home and residents.

Jessie Joe Jacobs said, “This crisis has shown the true spirit of Teesside, which is of one of care and compassion. When this crisis hit people so many people wanted to know what they could do to help. For many people it’s a simple as staying at home but for those able to do more Teesside Community Action Group has been a brilliant way to support people to act.

“I know that the Thursday night clap for key workers has inspired a lot of people and shown our support for those who are working hard to protect us. People have been asking me what they can do to help in a more practical way and now local residents have come together to say they want to go further.

“This hand sanitiser is much needed in our care homes right now so it’s good to see a local business stepping up like this.”

Jay Byers of Steel River Drinks said, “Not all heroes wear capes and lycra. I have been amazed and humbled by the work our NHS workers have done throughout this terrible pandemic.

“The sheer number of key workers out there doing amazing, worthy, underpaid and at times, brave work, has compelled me to get behind this Act for Key Workers initiative. So, Steel River Drinks will happily and proudly help these heroes in our own little way; Gin, tonics and hand sanitiser!”

A conversation with Shadow Environmental Secretary and Great British Menu Chef

Darlington’s Great British Menu finalist spells out future for North East’s food and drinks sector post Covid

Darlington’s Ruth Hansom, BBC Great British Menu Finalist, joined Luke Pollard MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Minister in an online discussion with Jessie Joe Jacobs, Labour’s Tees Valley Mayoral candidate to look at the impact of the Covid Crisis on the food and drink sector.

In the online discussion hosted by Jessie Joe Jacobs with the young TV star, Ruth shares about her own journey of moving to London at 15 years old because saying there were many more opportunities in London and says what’s happening to the sector is heart-breaking, but there is also hope.

Ruth says “You see people who have worked taking something from nothing to get a restaurant up and running and it’s their life, their soul and they’re there sometimes 16 hours a day and they get something out of their jobs which is making people happy and you take that away and people feel they have lost their purpose, they don’t know what to do.

But Ruth goes on to say on the flip side, “People will come back after this crisis with a better work life balance. It has highlighted that employees in the sector need more time off and there needs to be a sustainability in their own lives in the future.”

Luke Pollard agreed saying “Food and drink manufacturing is the largest manufacturing sector in the whole country, it’s not airplane wings, it’s not cars. It’s food and drink.

“We need to value more those who work in this sector much more but we also need an urgency in supporting local businesses, providing the opportunities to grow, by encouraging people to buy local, supporting them with a platform to enable buying local, but also provide grants and funding.”

Jessie Joe Jacobs said, “Food and drink has often been described as the Cinderella of the North East economy. It employs extremely large numbers of people, enriches our lives in significant ways and adds to the cultural landscape in ways few other sectors do and yet is often overlooked and overshadowed.

“This needs to change. Coming back bigger and better after Covid means having a much stronger focus on food and drink and also on how we support local producers, manufacturers and businesses in more strategic ways. We also need to ensure we value those that work within the sector much more.”

Link to the Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=239914307421571&ref=watch_permalink

A Civic Response to Coronavirus

It is clear that the impact of Coronavirus is going to hurt the Tees Valley in ways, that up until a month ago were thought unimaginable. The jobs losses and business closures will be unprecedented and the human cost and loss of life will be devastating.

Local, regional and national government must pull together, alongside our communities and civic society to ensure the survival of our local businesses and the protection of those most vulnerable. Last week I wrote to Rushi Sunack on behalf of business and workers asking for updates to the budget which many suggestions were implemented.

I have since been working tirelessly with business leaders and communities  over the last week to pull together ideas that could be implemented locally, which I have set out in a letter to the Mayor Ben Houchen – COVID-19 Response and his cabinet at the Combined authority.  Ultimately we need government action but that mustn’t stop us being responsive on the ground to need.

My team and I have now set up Teesside Community Action a civic society response to the coronavirus, offering advice, support and guidance around a rage of issues. We have begun a crisis fund for those most vulnerable.  I have also been in conversation with businesses and charities to develop efficient and safe ways that the public can support each other during this time such as the idea of a crisis helpline for the elderly who are not online.

The coronavirus is already having catastrophic impacts on the retail, leisure and service industry with jobs and businesses being lost by the hour.  Whilst we can only call on national government to address this urgently with financial measures and addressing flaws in the current welfare system, there are some measures we could take to support this industry locally during this period such as

  • Setting up an emergency Task Force and business support team for service industry
  • Investing in localised not-for-profit online platforms to facilitate trade, along the lines of the Just Eat model which could create trade for cafes and restaurants and help to secure the supply of food during the outbreak.
  • Easy access investment and support to local businesses for digital technologies that
    enable the provision of services at a distance.

A general business strategy, could include redirecting where possible, business support schemes into business continuity support – which could include the setting up an emergency business helpline and offering dedicated support and advice around

  • Creating business continuity and survival plans 
  • crisis loans, grants and tax payments
  • Looking after the workforce and advising on best practice
  • Managing a business during periods of disruption
  • Policies and business processes that can be adopted to enable teams to work remotely from home during periods of isolation

A Civic society strategy should be based on coordinating and redeploying as many resources and services as possible to deal with the crisis and providing a link between business, institutions and communities. There are many people wanting to look after people and play their role in protecting those most vulnerable, we must do this in a coordinated way and provide leadership and support to those people, organisations and groups.

We are no longer in a business as usual phase, this is unprecedented times needing unprecedented action

Bringing Tees Transport into 21st Century

Jessie Joe Jacobs Tees Travel plans will bring public transport system into the 21st Century

Jessie Joe Jacobs, Labour’s mayoral hopeful for Tees Valley, has announced her exciting plans to drastically overhaul and improve public transport in the region, putting buses centre stage of her plans.

Buses in Tees Valley are in dire need of a shake-up with figures revealing bus services are being reduced, journeys are down while fares continue to rise. Jessie’s ambitious proposals would look at options for the public to have more control over fares, time-tabling and routes as part of a London-style transport network.

Jessie’s vision for a Tees Travel integrated system would include revamping buses, increasing train journey numbers, introducing new stations and radically improving cycle-ways, bringing public transport in Teesside into the 21st century.

Setting out her plans in Hartlepool, with Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary and Middlesbrough MP, Andy McDonald, Jessie’s pledges for buses include: capping fares, more and better bus routes, as well as greener and cleaner buses and trains. The exploration of options for Britain’s first Hydrogen train being piloted here in the Tees Valley, is also on the cards.

Figures show that across the Tees Valley, bus usage is down across the region year on year, with Middlesbrough seeing the largest drop in bus journeys with a 2.6m decrease from 2009/2010 to 2017/18. Other figures from the Department for Transport also show that nationally, local bus fares in England increased by 71% between March 2005 and March 2018, with the average increase in fares higher than the average annual rate of inflation.

Jessie Joe Jacob’s, Labour’s candidate for Tees Valley Mayor, said:

“From Hartlepool to Guisborough, I’m told of bus services that have been dropped, leaving communities and particularly older people cut off and isolated. It has been a long and slow decline, at a time when we should be moving towards more and better public transport use in our efforts to reduce our climate impact.

“For too long Tees Valley has had to put up with second-class disjointed bus service. Big bus companies have been getting away with these cuts without any challenge from the current mayor.

“How can it be fair that you can spend £1.50 standard price to travel across London but in Tees Valley it can cost so much more to make even short journeys. Fares are going up at the same time as bud routes are being cut.

“The Tees Valley is falling further and further behind when it comes to public transport. While other Metro Mayors across the UK are pushing forward creating integrated, greener and more efficient bus networks. Now is the time to tackle this issue head on, which will start with having some bravery in standing up to the big bus companies. We need the mayor to use the powers we have and sort out this failing system once and for all.

“The current Tory Mayor is more interested in how long it takes people to fly to Alicante where I’m worried about making sure people can get to work and to the shops.

“My Tees Travel plans would revolutionise our public transport system, integrating buses, trains and cycle-ways making them fit for the 21st Century.”

Similar public transport schemes have been set up by Labour-controlled councils to great success in Nottingham, Reading and Blackpool. Labour-run Greater Manchester and Liverpool Combined Authorities are also in the process of looking at ways to re-regulate their bus network.

As Mayor, Jessie will commission a study on how to create an integrated bus, train and cycle-way system – looking at different options to re-regulate bus services locally and bring them more in-line a London-style network. After a thorough study and public consultation, Jessie will select the model which will best deliver for Teessiders.

Notes to editors:
· Bus services outside of London have struggled since the system was deregulated by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

· London has re-regulated its system, with typical profits for bus companies in the capital 3% but 19% in the North. According to an analysis by FAME, in the financial year 2015-2016, Cleveland Transit Ltd (Stagecoach) profits were 19.6%. If Cleveland Transit Ltd (Stagecoach) profit was cut from 13.0% (3.9m) to the London level of 3.8% (£1.1m) through an equivalently efficient management of franchising, the saving would be £2.4m per year.

· Passenger journeys by bus by Local Authority info https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/bus01-local-bus-passenger-journeys

· Local bus fare increase info https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/774565/annual-bus-statistics-year-ending-mar-2018.pdf

As Britain’s billionaire count rises, our public servants are being forced into poverty

New analysis released today shows that 18,000 children in the North East with a parent working in the public sector are now living in poverty.

That’s a 37% rise, with some 4,000 more children falling into poverty since 2010.

So why is this happening? It’s simple. While the government has been handing out tax giveaways to large corporations, it has simultaneously been starving our public services of the funding they need. It has capped public sector pay rises year upon year and our public sector workers are facing the cost.

We all know the price of everything is going up, food, utilities, petrol, even a cinema ticket.  If we suppress wages while prices rise, it means pure and simple that people – and in this case children – will fall into poverty.

And when public servants are falling into poverty, we have a big problem.  These are our firefighters, our police call centre staff, our teaching support teams, our NHS workers.  They are the backbone of our country and if we can’t value them and give them the pay they deserve, then we really have to question who this country is working for?

The current government will say they don’t have the money, but we at the TUC argue that austerity and this devastating squeeze on our public services is a political choice. We have a government that is saying they won’t go near the salaries at the top, but seem happy to see wages fall for the rest of us.

In the same period that has seen rising poverty among our public servants, this country has made more billionaires than ever before. Taxation could favour the many and not the few but it doesn’t, our middle and lower income earners could be prioritised over those already earning millions but they aren’t.

And this government could finally wake up to the fact that all these cuts are not even working and are not kick-starting our economy the way they promised they would.

Our public sector workers deserve a pay rise and this week, as part of HeartUnions week, we are asking Philip Hammond to show public sector workers some love and give them the payrise they deserve.

(First Published by the TUC https://www.tuc.org.uk/blogs/britains-billionaire-count-rises-our-public-servants-are-being-forced-poverty)

Introducing RePublik… Politics down the pub

rePUBlic
Where do you go to put the world to rights? For some of us it’s our local hairdressers, other’s it’s in the staffroom, or at our Dads house after Sunday lunch. For a few of us, it’s our local boozer. John Christie knows this only too well. Running The Golden Smog micro pub in Stockton he has heard his fair share of political discussion and has been looking at ways to turn that discussion into action.

He ran a ‘We Shall Overcome’ event, which used music, spoken word and comedy to raise awareness about the effects of government cuts on those most vulnerable. Since then, we connected around setting up “RePublik” a pub night where political debate is actively encouraged.

Teaming up with myself and Adam Parkin who from a young age has been interested in politics and more recently has been promoting all the good things that happen in Stockton through the online movement ‘I Love Stockton Me’, we started taking over Stockton venues and inviting Teessiders to join us in debating issues that matter to local people.

“RePublik gives people a chance to have a voice, to discuss the issues that are important to them in an environment that is safe and relaxed” says Adam.

John says “RePublik isn’t about party politics, it’s about people’s politics. Just because someone doesn’t vote or hasn’t joined a political party, it doesn’t mean they aren’t political. Sometimes people are disillusioned with it all. Other people have a lot to say but don’t have a forum to share these thoughts and ideas. RePublik is about giving people that chance, it’s about getting people out of the armchair and into the pub to discuss the things that matter”

After the success of ‘Question Time at the Bar’ a similar event that was held in Storytellers in the run up to the General Election, we hoped our event titled “SSI, Jobs and Enterprise” would be even more successful.

It was, we hosted a panel with blogger ‘Anna Maven – The SSI Wife’, whose powerful words have been read by thousands across the UK as she shared her heart about the steel factory closure and her fears for her and her husbands future; Rachel Lumsdon a local activist who has been at the heart of campaigning around industrial issues for many years and Chris Butler a director at Teesside charity ‘Five Lamps’ who has helped hundreds of people out of welfare and into self-employment.

The event was covered by BBC Panorama, BBC Tees and The Evening Gazettte and we had around 80 people in attendance.

We Shall Overcome

cropped-we-shall-overcome-fb-banner

I’ve been reflecting on poverty this week. On Sunday I was at a music gig at Golden Smog micro-pub in Stockton. It was organised by the amazing landlord John Christie, as part of a national weekend of music events called “We Shall Overcome”. It’s aim was to make a political statement about the human cost of the current government’s funding cuts and welfare reforms, alongside raising funds for charity.

When I ran a women and young people’s charity, I saw first-hand the hidden poverty that exists in some of our communities. We gave out food to people who were destitute and without money. Our foodbank workers heard horrendous stories day after day, about helpless situations caused in part by the government cuts and welfare reforms. Elderly women sharing neighbours baths, children going without food, middle aged men deciding between heating or eating. People call it “Austerity”. I call it an atrocity.

I don’t think what’s happening is fair or just. For years Britain’s banking institutions (and those with a lot of money) gambled with hard working people’s money. They made reckless decisions and eventually it all came crashing down around them. The banks crashed and they lost billions and billions of pounds. Our government at the time had to come to the rescue (because it was mostly our money in them) and borrowed about £500billion to save them. Now a few years on, the bankers are back at work doing what they’ve always done, but it’s hard working people and those most vulnerable who are left paying the price. We’re losing tax credits, libraries, youth centres, pension payments, social workers, elderly care services, police officers, street wardens, sure start workers, children’s services and play schemes, just to pay a debt we didn’t create.

There are a whole load of people who think this is wrong. They don’t think it is right that everyday Brits should loose out and so “We shall Overcome” was one of the many activities and actions organised over the last few years to raise awareness about the issue of Austerity.

250 events took place all across the UK. Several thousand musicians performed.  Thousands and thousands of people came along. The event in Stockton was blinding, with poets, musicians, singers and comedians all lining up to offer their creative talent for free in aid of this brilliant cause. I was astounded at the talent I saw. A few of the highlights were Leah Maria, a young girl who had a voice as good as any X factor finalist, Josie Wallace, a quartet of Stand-up, a few brilliant bands, The poet Duggy Verill who had us all in hysterics with his base Boro humour and a solo guitarist called Mary Webb who’s hauntingly good voice had us all in awe.

In total, £1100 plus food and clothing was raised and as we sang together with pint in hand, we made our statement, saying to those most vulnerable, you’re not alone, we won’t turn away, we’re with you; this isn’t over, we shall overcome!

One teen death by suicide is one too many

I’ve noticed many of my friends Facebook posts over the last few weeks urging people to speak out about mental illness. I’ve wrote about campaigns about mental illness before, but I felt I couldn’t let Suicide Prevention week go by without speaking out about it.

I particularly wanted to speak about Teen suicide, one of the leading causes of death in that age group in the UK. It’s hard to imagine the extreme psychological pain that leads to someone deciding suicide is their only option. Teenagers have a lot to contend with, the world can at times be a harsh place. Bullying is rife within some of our schools, pressure to perform academically is great, being accepted and liked, is even greater and mental disorder can affect us all, at any time. Suicide is a tragedy and one teen death by suicide is one death too many. It is something I feel very, very strongly about.

I worked with children who were suicidal when I ran the charity, A Way Out. Some of our work at the time, focused on trying to keep them alive. Sometimes this was around harm minimisation, like getting the child to hospital quickly after a suicide attempt or ensuring they were in safe and secure accommodation where any medicines and sharp objects were out of reach. Other times it was about getting to the root issues, being a safe place for children to come and open up about how they were feeling and ensuring they got the right medical support and treatment to deal with those feelings. It wasn’t easy. I remember at times really praying they would be safe and that they wouldn’t die. I know there are young adults here today that maybe wouldn’t be, if it hadn’t been for our work. That’s a good feeling, but then I think about all the thousands of other children across the UK who will be feeling like ending their lives and I know the battle is continuous.
suicide_speak_reach
But what can we do? Well, the message of suicide prevention week was to “reach out”. Let’s look at how.
Firstly, reaching out to those who are vulnerable to suicide, lonely people, a child or friend who is being bullied or maybe someone who you know is depressed? Reaching out as a friend, asking them if they are ok and letting them know you care, can have a significant impact, as can listening and just being there.

Secondly, reaching out and connecting people to relevant services. Although support of friends and relatives is crucial, it’s not always enough. Often formal help is also needed. This maybe clinical, psychological or social. Make sure you link someone at risk to the specialist services that are available.

Thirdly reach out to those who have been bereaved by suicide. Suicide is devastating for families and they may experience a whole range of emotions, including grief, anger, guilt, disbelief and self-blame. Offer them a non-judgmental ear and an opportunity to talk about their loss. It may be a starting point for them to move through their grief.
Lastly, keep raising awareness, posting on Facebook and spreading the word. Suicide “is” preventable so let’s try and stand together to prevent other deaths in Teesside and beyond.

« Older Entries