My eldest son, George, sadly took his life last New Year.
It is difficult, and at times uncontrollably emotional. I have sought professional help to cope with that side of things, and I can now much better control the awful combination of sadness of the circumstances of his death; the guilt of feeling happy when that seems so wrong; and, the terrible sensation of having massively failed him as a father. Together, these emotions are overwhelming and bring tears in a torrent – I find the shower is the best place to sob as you can make a feeble excuse, to cover self-perceived weakness, by saying one got shampoo in one’s reddened eyes.
George’s younger brother, Charlie, and I want to help others who have experienced such a loss, and importantly try to prevent young suicide in the first instance. We intend to raise money and then make a large cash sum donation, prior to the first anniversary of George’s death, to PAPYRUS – a suicide prevention charity which provides confidential support and advice to young people struggling with thoughts of suicide, and anyone worried about a young person through their helpline, HOPELINEUK.
In addition, we want to focus on the parents, who like me are badly affected by a child’s suicide, by providing an opportunity to enjoy some time together, while leaning into the pain. As such, part of the money raised will be ring-fenced, to enable us to provide “escape” days on the Solent, for the parents and their other siblings touched by this terrible illness, on board a sailing yacht.
As an MCA qualified yacht captain myself, this is something that I’ve been doing for those affected by child cancer for a number of years; and I’ve seen first-hand the very positive outcome of just a single day on the water.
Those who have been on the water before will know that attached to the head sail are pieces of yarn or fabric called tell-tales, and it is through the tell-tales that we set the sail.
I visualise that I have a red tell-tale for: Sadness; a yellow one for: Guilt; and, a blue one for: Failure. But, when they are properly aligned and the boat is performing well – I am OK, and the dark clouds are brighter.
No parent should bury a child, and the team at PAPYRUS are doing a wonderful job working with young people who are struggling with life. Sadly, however, the number of children taking their young lives each year is on the rise. I fear that this winter may see a sharp increase in young people experiencing thoughts of suicide as they struggle to readjust their lives as a consequence of the pandemic.
I am focusing my energy on raising money so that we can provide a structured approach to preventing young suicide, while offering some relief and fresh air to bereaved parents and their children, like Charlie and me.
I very much look forward to being more than just OK, which I can tell you is: “exhausting.”
The sail2help programme has been established to raise awareness of mental health issues among young people, and importantly raise funds in order to offer much needed support to such vulnerable people by financially supporting PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide, the UK’s main suicide prevention charity for young people. In addition the programme intends to fund a sustainable 5+ year programme to provide “Escape Days” in the fresh air on a sailing yacht for those families blighted by the terrible effects of mental health issues, making the waves of grief that usually knock them off their feet less violent.
I speak with experience having lost my eldest son George to suicide in the early days of 2020, and my elder brother, Peter some 25 years ago. I know how it feels to lie in bed at night sobbing until you can no longer breathe and that makes me want to help others. I can’t suggest for a moment that it won’t always hurt but sailing with someone who has suffered such a loss might make it hurt less, but I can’t do it alone and need your help, and with your help we can help others avoid the heart ache.
AVRO Yachting Ltd is providing a flagship yacht, The Dudley Docker – so named as it was Ernest Shakleton who allocated the strongest crew to the Dudley Docker on their epic trip to Elephant Island after their confinement on the ice, for use as a mobile platform to raise awareness of mental health issues among young people.
At present we are running an immediate three phase approach to the prevention of young suicide; while looking after others who have similarly experienced the gut-wrenching sadness associated with it.
Phase 1. To obtain seed-corn funding for the long term sail2help programme, and further donations for PAPYRUS. In addition to financing the necessary upgrades to our flagship, for her immediate safe and legal commercial operation by Fairview Sailing Ltd, as one of the platforms for the provision of respite days afloat.
Phase 2. To deliver of a number of “Escape Days” for families affected, between end of May and early October on the Solent this year. The cost of an escape day is in the region of £2500.
Phase 3. To deliver of a significant number of “Escape Days” for families affected in the future, using service providers in the South West, from sponsorship, and fund raising by the enduring sail2help programme.
My principal focus, at present, is to garner seed-corn funding for the long term programme and further donations for PAPYRUS. In addition, within the first phase I am seeking support that would provide for much needed additional respite days afloat this year, and boat upgrades for our flagship’s immediate commercial use.
So far, with retrospective gift aid applied, we have raised £20,000 for PAPYRUS in just over three months, and ring-fenced a further £7,500 for respite sailing which will allow for, at least three days of fresh air and relief for a number of families this year.
For all sponsorship packages we offer branding, inclusion in social media feeds and notifications on our website: www.sail2help.com
By way of an example, £5K would afford you publicity and a corporate day afloat for up to eight guests (usually costing in the region of £2500); or publicity and the sponsorship of an “escape” day.