Opportunity of a lifetime: Churchill Fellowship to support children bereaved by parental suicide
I'm thrilled to be able to share the news that I've been awarded a Churchill Fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to carry out international research focusing on the support of children who lose a parent to suicide.
Over the next months I'll be visiting a number of groundbreaking projects in Australia, the United States and Denmark supporting children after suicide loss in order to bring ideas and inspiration back to the UK and break down the stigma surrounding this issue.
The first leg of my journey will take me to Australia in June, where I'll be visiting Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Sydney, where I've been invited as a keynote speaker at the 6th Australian Postvention Conference: Building Hope Together.
It's a deeply personal project for me as my dad, Ralph, took his own life when I was nine years old, an experience that's had a profound impact on my life.
Through my endurance swims around the world I've raised in excess of £75,000 including £16,000 for the Samaritans, enough for the suicide prevention charity to answer more than 20,000 calls.
I’ve used my swimming challenges to shine a light on causes close to my heart, and this project under the banner of the prestigious Winston Churchill Memorial Trust will enable me to take this mission to the next level.
The Childhood Bereavement Network estimates that as many as 3,000 children lose a parent to suicide in the UK each year. A Johns Hopkins study found that people who lose a parent to suicide are three times more likely to face mental health issues and take their own lives compared to the wider population.
Although there's a growing awareness of mental health issues and a focus on suicide prevention initiatives, more than 6,000 people take their own lives in the UK each year and the children left behind after parental suicide remain an invisible group. I intend to change that by bringing back best practice from around the world to improve the provision of support in the UK.
I'm determined to make the most of this incredible opportunity, and by starting a conversation around how we support children who lose a parent to suicide, we can break down the stigma and create a brighter future for a group that has been overlooked for too long.
I look forward to sharing this exciting journey with you,
The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust runs the Churchill Fellowships, a unique programme of overseas research grants. These support UK citizens from all parts of society to travel the world in search of innovative solutions for today’s most pressing problems.
Every year they award 150 Fellowships to “fund outstanding individuals to travel for 4-8 weeks, anywhere in the world, researching a topic of their choice among global leaders in their field”. On their return, they help them to share their global learning with professions and communities across the UK.