A group of 20 workers from Cumbria County Council are currently leading the IASP Cycle Around the Globe challenge, which aims to raise awareness of community-based suicide prevention activities by collectively cycling 24,900 miles.
The council staff – calling themselves the Cumbria Globetrotters – ‘set off’ on 10 September, which marked World Suicide Prevention Day and will notch up the miles until 10 October. They are raising money for local Cumbrian charity, Suicide Bereavement Support (SBS) by various different means including road riding, mountain biking and riding exercise bikes at home; even runners and walkers have joined the challenge!
On average, one person a week in Cumbria is lost to suicide
To put it into perspective, the heart-breaking statistic of losing someone each week on average to suicide in Cumbria is greater than those lost to road traffic accidents. Having operated under the wing of national charity Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide for nine years, SBS was founded around a year ago and builds on that experience to focus on offering a truly local service to people living in Cumbria and surrounding areas including North Lancashire and South Scotland.
SBS usually offers four self-help support groups across Cumbria, where those left behind by suicide can meet with other people in a similar position, although meetings are currently being held virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions. The groups provide an opportunity to listen, to share, to gain understanding and to connect with others. A helpline service and private forum is also available and is run by volunteers who have been personally affected by suicide.
The Cumbria County Council group were keen to embark on the challenge to draw attention to the prevalence of suicide and the importance of positive mental health and wellbeing; the council have had involvement in the Time to Change initiative, a growing social movement working to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems. It’s a sad fact that motivation for the Cumbria Globetrotters cycle campaign was due to some of the team losing loved ones to suicide in recent months, relying on organisations such as Suicide Bereavement Support to get through the challenges that bereavement by suicide presents.
Angela Armstrong is a member of the team who has sadly experienced the loss of suicide first-hand: “I lost my nephew Harry Armstrong to Suicide in 2019 when he was 20 years old. It was a complete shock to our family. He was always so happy and he was so loved. We all miss him and think of him every day. I don’t want any other family to experience the same pain that we have, but if they do, I want them to know that support is available. I want something positive to come out of a horrible situation and I want Harry to be remembered.”
In the memory of loved ones
Despite the serious nature of the campaign, the Globetrotters are a sparky team of positive individuals, each of them pushing beyond their comfort zones to achieve their potential to do justice to the memory of loved ones lost.
Beverly Graham, Globetrotter team member at Cumbria County Council, said: “As a team we are very aware that Cumbria has a higher rate of suicide than other areas of the country, and we want to highlight this and raise awareness. Cumbria County Council supports the Time to Change campaign and wants to help to remove stigma around suicide where we can. Suicide Bereavement Support has supported at least one team member with sad personal loss through suicide, so we were all keen to give something back to the charity. We want something positive to come of shocking, horrible situations; our colleagues have inspired us with how well they have coped, so we are Cycling Around the Globe to remember those who our team has lost.”
If you would like to support the Cumbria Globetrotters, you can donate via JustGiving at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cumbriaglobetrotters. Having already cycled more than 1,100 miles and raised around £1,500, there are many more miles to be covered by the team before 10 October!
Support for people touched by suicide
If you are struggling with the death of someone who has taken their own life and need someone to listen to your experience and offer you support, please do get in touch. You can call the SBS helpline on 07572 975 721 (John) or 07896 703 757 (Karan). You can also email [email protected], or you can visit Facebook and Twitter at @CumbriaSBS.