Creating Hope Through Action - Activists Speak Out

On World Suicide Prevention Day 2021, 123GP activists talk about their reasons for becoming mental health rights activists and the positive difference they are making Sara Boyce  |  Fri Sep 10 2021
123GP activists calling for increased funding to make counselling available in a timely, accessible manner
'If we all politicised (rather than medicalised) our distress, there’d be more demand for, and design of, socio-political solutions” Dr. James Davies

The theme for this year's World Suicide Prevention Day is Creating Hope Through Action.

Every day #123GP activists create hope through their collective activism.

They provide connection, trust, meaning and solidarity to each other in the face of the failure of those in power to respond meaningfully and compassionately to the distress they and/or their families and friends are experiencing.

Activists who have suffered the loss of loved ones to suicide are determined to achieve changes to existing systems, to protect and prevent other families from experiencing the truama and loss they've gone through.

Together they are bravely articulating a more meaningful understanding around emotional distress and trauma, one that shifts the focus from the individual, one that stops asking 'what's wrong with you' and instead asks 'what happened to you and how can we put that right?'

They are also exploring and promoting better responses to distress and trauma. Two exciting initiatives they are currently involved with are The Rest of the Story -- community-based, trauma-informed storytelling -- and Open Dialogue, a philosophical/theoretical approacht to people experiencing a mental health crisis and their families/networks, coupled with a system of care.

Here these activists share some of their personal reasons for becoming mental health rights activists and the difference they are making.

'I'm a mental health rights activist so no other family has to go through what my family did' Julie

'I'm a mental health rights activist because even the smallest change can make a big difference to someone in despair, it can make a difference between life and death. I never want a parent to go through what we did' Kirsty

'I'm a mental health rights activist because I need to be the voice for the more vulnerable people in this society' Mary

'I'm a mental health rights activist because I know how it feels and the causes are that we struggle just to live' Barry

'I'm a mental health rights activist because we are radically behind in the treatment and prevention of mental illness here in Northern Ireland and I don't want other families suffering the consequences like mine have' Magz

'I'm a mental health rights activist because I want to bring attention to this underfunded, ignored, silent truama that is killing our families' Annie

'I'm a mental health rights activist because at 16 I nearly lost my own life to poor mental health. Too many young people are gone before their time' Rory

'I'm a mental health rights activist because getting the right support at the right time saves lives' Maria

Activists often comment on the fact that while the changes they have secured may seem small to some observers, they are huge for people they directly impact upon.

Examples of those changes include the Card Before You Leave system in Emergency Departments, ensuring better communication and co-ordination between the PHA, PSNI and Coroners Office following a death by suicide and increased funding for counselling and talking therapies.

Activists also recognise that shifting the overall paradigm, from a medicalised, individualised model of mental health, to a contextualised understanding of distress and truama, will take time and involves alliance building.

They are encouraged by the rights-based direction of travel globally - away from investment in in-patient mental health facilities that are wedded to the biomedical model of understanding, and towards a community-based and rights-based model that prioritises therapeutic and relation based approaches.

If you would like to join us in our campaign for a system of mental health care that is based on human rights and a theraputic model of understanding, we'd love to hear from you.

You can contact us on Twitter @PPR_Org , FB or via email sara@pprproject.org

Sara Boyce works as an organiser with the #123GP mental health rights campaign. She has worked with PPR since 2016, both as an organiser and also as a policy worker across a range of campaigns supported by PPR. Prior to joining PPR Sara worked on both sides of the Irish border with a range of community and human rights organisations, including with Traveller groups and children and young people’s organisations.

She also worked for over a decade from the mid 1980s to the late 1990s as a Speech and Language Therapist, before undertaking a Masters in Equality Studies in UCD in 2006. Sara is passionate about promoting the power of poetry and other forms of creativity in challenging oppression and inequality at all levels.


‘Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution and raising consciousness.’ (Alice Walker)