Take off for Australia on first leg of Churchill Fellowship travels
Friday 7 June, QF002
And so it begins… I’m on QF002 bound for Melbourne to start my Churchill Fellowship travels, albeit 72 hours than later after a delay to await biopsy results for a tropical parasitical infection. Thankfully I got the all-clear and I’m finally on my way for what feels in many ways my greatest adventure yet. It certainly feels like the most important, to improve the support for children left behind after suicide.
It’s going to be a deeply emotional journey for me and I’m aware it’s likely to open some deep wounds, but it also feels like the opportunity of a lifetime to make a real difference so that no child has to experience the total lack of support that I did when my own dad took his own life when I was nine back in 1985.
There is still a huge amount of stigma surrounding suicide, and even on the way to the airport my cab driver talked about working in a school a number of years ago when a father took his own life leaving behind two small children and the local authority failing to provide any support for the teachers dealing with the situation. It’s shocking to think that so little has changed in over three decades.
So after a five-hour layover in at Singapore’s Changi airport, I’ll be arriving in Melbourne on Sunday morning to embark on a life-changing research project that will span three continents.
After my curtailed visit to Melbourne, where I’ll be meeting with Karl Andreiessen, an expert in the effect of suicide on young people, at the University of Melbourne, I’ll fly on to Sydney on Tuesday afternoon.
In Sydney I’ll be visiting various people working with young people after suicide bereavement and next Friday I’ll be speaking at the Australian Suicide Postvention Convention, which attracts experts in the field from all over the world.
From Sydney I’ll travel on to Queensland where I’ll be spending some days with Standby Support After Suicide, an organisation that coordinates multiagency support in the aftermath of a suicide. During my visit I’ll be speaking at the Falcons Rugby Club before returning to the UK on 27 June.
In August I’ll be travelling to the USA, where I’ll be swimming the Catalina Channel between the island of Santa Catalina and Long Beach, Los Angeles. This 33km crossing is consider one of the world’s iconic marathon swims and I’m going to use it to raise awareness of my Churchill Fellowship project and to help promote a conversation around how we best support children left behind after suicide.
Afterwards, I’ll be visiting the Dougy Center in Portland, a world leader in supporting bereaved children, and then I’ll travel to Montana, where I’ll be part of the CARE Team of volunteers with lived experience of suicide, on the Camp to Remember at Flathead Lake, providing support for bereaved children including those who have lost a parent to suicide.
Later I’ll visit the NEFOS project in Denmark who provide support to families after suicide loss along with a number of academics and writers who specialise in the area of support for children after the loss of a parent to suicide.
It’s a hugely important project for me, and I feel a great sense of trepidation as I finally embark on the first step, this flight to the other side of the world to seek out new ideas and inspiration to bring back to the UK. It’s an honour to have been granted this once in a lifetime opportunity on me by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and it’s one I’m absolutely determined to make the most of and I look forward to sharing the journey with you over the coming months.