Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.
Today we want to celebrate Olly’s life and everything we have achieved two and a half years on at Olly’s Future.
Olly’s Future was formed out of a moment of great loss and sadness. But Olly’s spirit, warmth and compassion lives on through our work.
I’m so proud (and stunned!) to say that so far we’ve trained 822 people in suicide prevention (822?!), including staff at UCL and Christ’s Hospital, where Olly went to school.
Olly’s mum, Ann, alongside a team of other wonderful wonder women, is currently working in conjunction with the NHS and Mind on a project called Practise Hope. The project is working with 30 GP practises across the South East to improve GP support to young people who are suicidal or self-harming. Practise Hope aims to better equip doctors’ surgeries with stronger and clearer guidelines on how to respond to these vulnerable young people, who often turn to their GP first for support before confiding in anyone else.
Ann is also lobbying to change the NICE guidelines around prescribing anti-depressants – which doctors are currently able to do over the phone with no requirement of prior consultation with patients.
Two years ago, I came up with the idea of an annual Oliver Hare Altruism Award at UCL because I wanted to establish a legacy for Olly that captured his kindness and compassion – something lasting that would encourage others to be selfless in his spirit.
Anita Sangha, a Politics, Sociology and East European Studies student at UCL, is the winner of this year’s award. The staff member of the Students’ Union who nominated her said that in all her ten years of working in the role, Anita stood out because of her selflessness in the face of personal hardships.
Every year, I organise and host MENtal health open mic nights at UCL in collaboration with the Students’ Union where young male (and female!) students take to the stage to speak openly about their mental health. I always make a point to start by saying that, although the thought of coming on stage to speak about your mental health to a room full of strangers is pretty daunting, you should take comfort knowing that every single person in the room is here because they care, here because they want to listen to your story.
Students often perform spoken word, recite poems or just speak openly about what’s on their mind. This year, we celebrated the third anniversary of our MENtal health open mic night. For some, the event was the very first time they’d even tried to articulate feelings of anxiety and depression to their own minds, let alone to a room full of strangers. The courage and bravery of every single person who takes to the stage to share their intimate stories continues to blow me away. It reminds me that every one of us has a story to tell. And for young men especially, we need to tell them that it’s okay for them to share their stories, and I feel we have a duty to provide them with the platform to do so. And that’s what I hope our open mic nights do.
For those of you who’ve attended one of our open mic nights in the past, I’m sure you’re aware of just how powerful, moving and inspiring they are. For those of you that haven’t yet, watch this space and come along to our next one in March next year!
Two and a half years on, I’m proud to say that the stigma around mental health is slowly dissipating. More people than ever before are signing up to become Mental Health First Aiders. More people than ever before are feeling empowered to talk about their feelings – young men in particular. And we’re proud to be playing a small part in that.
Thank you so much to everyone who has joined us on our journey so far. And power to those of you who are struggling. You are not alone, and I hope we can support you as best we can.
Love and light, always,
Ayesha and the Olly’s Future Team
Read this story in the press here