Highlighting the suicide crisis in the UK 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 experiencing mental ill health, visiting Greater Manchester on Thursday 29th June 2023.
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 those with lived experience of mental ill health, those bereaved by suicide and people with their own inspiring stories of hope.
Project lead for the Greater Manchester leg is, Adele Owen QPM, who works for the NHS and leads on the city’s Shining a Light on Suicide Campaign. She said: “As part of our Shining a Light on Suicide campaign, we have been promoting suicide awareness and the importance of hope across our city region over the last 4 years.
“We welcome the opportunity to join forces with Baton of Hope UK to share these important messages and say it’s ok to reach out for support. I hope that by talking about mental health, we can save lives. Please come and show your support on the day [full details below].”
Locally, the Baton of Hope Tour will begin in Salford at 8.15am with Agecroft Rowing Club members and Mike Palmer from 3 Dads Walking, rowing with the Baton from Media City, along the waterway into Manchester before returning to Old Trafford where the Baton will disembark.
The Baton will then join a team of runners outside Manchester United Football Stadium between 9–9.30am before they set off running to Manchester City Football Stadium arriving between 10.30–11am. They will be met at both clubs by Premier League representatives. A visit to the National Cycling Centre will follow at 11.15am–12pm.
At 2pm, those who have been chosen to carry the Baton of Hope and other supporters, will walk into Manchester city centre from outside Whitworth Art Gallery along Oxford Road passing the University of Manchester before arriving at approximately 3pm in St. Peter’s Square (a journey of 1.4 miles). The Baton Bearers will take it in turns to carry the baton as they walk.
The Baton of Hope will continue to be carried in St. Peter’s Square on a set route – a figure of eight, the sign for infinity, with this part of the day ending by 5pm.
At 6pm an invitation-only Baton of Hope event will take place where attendees will hear from Mike McCarthy and 3 Dads Walking – Mike, Tim, and Andy. Dan Wilsher will be singing the song he wrote and performed on the Channel 4 series, The Piano. Local poet JK O’Neill will be sharing a poem and the Greater Manchester ‘Sing Their Name Choir’ – a choir for those bereaved by suicide across the city will be performing publicly for the first time.
During the day, Manchester Art Gallery will be displaying the Speak Their Name Suicide Memorial Quilt and local support organisations will be in attendance for people to visit for information. These include the Greater Manchester Bereavement Service, Samaritans, SoBS (Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide), Papyrus (preventing young suicide) and others.
The Baton of Hope was co-founded by Mike McCarthy, whose son Ross had depression for a decade and took 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. 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 every one 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.