1. What is the meaning behind the name of your charity, The OLLIE Foundation?
OLLIE stands for One Life Lost Is Enough. We ended up with this acronym as OLLIE was founded by three parents who all lost their sons to suicide, which is considered a preventable cause of death. The emphasis is really that even just one life lost to suicide too much and enough is enough, it is time to take action. OLLIE was set up to help every day people gain the skills and confidence to become part of the strategy in reducing suicide.
2. What were your main goals and objectives when OLLIE was being set up as a charity?
After Morgan, one of our founder's son who took his own life, Stuart came across the misconception that if you ask someone are they thinking of suicide you will "put the idea in their head". He did some research on this concept and came to the conclusion that this was a false premise. From there he realised that despite all the safeguarding training and education staff receive, they do not get any training on how to deal with suicide. He found LivingWorks suicide prevention skills training and decided this was something that needed to be available to schools, so he set up the charity with the other two founders with the aim of delivering this training to the local schools within Hertfordshire. Since then we have widened our remit to include parents, youth group leaders, NHS staff, police and other charities.
3. In what ways do you help to raise awareness of suicide and support for suicide prevention?
We raise awareness of suicide by bringing the topic into conversations everywhere we go. Our training teaches people how to have a conversation about suicide and encourages them not to be scared of talking about the subject. Our aim is to get the topic of suicide to where cancer is now. A horrible thing, but something people are not fearful of talking about. We deliver talks to a wide variety of organisations shining a light on suicide and encouraging others to do the same. Our fears always seems greater in the dark than when we see them in the light. So far we have trained 653 people in suicide-alertness and 142 people in suicide intervention.
4. What do you think are the biggest obstacles facing people who want to seek help and advice about suicide?
Whilst the stigma surround mental health and suicide has increased there is still an awful lot more progress to make. People still feel like they are "failures" if they have to ask for help. In addition to this not everyone is supportive and people do still face discrimination if they are open about suffering with mental illness or struggling their mental health. This is captured in the analogy that when someone breaks their arm, everyone runs to them to sign the cast, yet when someone mentions their discussion, people are often suddenly not there. Young people also can struggle to identify their feelings, often all they can identify is anger, sadness or happiness, when there is so much more in between such as fear and shame. Sometimes people just don't know who to ask for help and that also prevents them from speaking out.
5. What difference have you noticed about how the topic of suicide, mental health and wellbeing is approached in the media since OLLIE was established? Do you think there is lessening of stigma in society around these issues?
There is less stigma, the topic of suicide is spoken about within the media far more, and when there has been a high profile media will now use the term suicide when talking about cause of death. The Herts Ad is just one of many newspapers that recently signed up to a contract committing to sensitive reporting on suicide and organisations are much quicker to choose to support OLLIE than in the early days of the charity. The appointment of a new Suicide Prevention Minister also highlights how we have made some progress in suicide prevention, but real difference takes real work and commitment, not just headlines that make for good reading. We are looking forward to seeing how these initial headlines will unfold into continued progress in the field of suicide prevention.
6. How has being a Member of Pro-Action impacted on you an organisation?
Being a member of Pro-Action has taken out some of the stress of ensuring structurally and process wise OLLIE is up to standard and has everything we need to run safely and successfully. In addition to this their weekly funding updates are very useless to help us in our grant strategy. We are looking forward to committing to their quality assurance programmes which will continue to ensure OLLIE meets the standards necessary to being a successful charity.
7. What does the future hold for OLLIE Foundation? What would you like to see change or improve in how young people are educated about suicide and mental health?
The future holds growth for OLLIE. Sadly the demand for what OLLIE delivers and the awareness we raise is only growing. We would like to see more education and early intervention earlier on in young people's school lives and a greater proportion of communities engage with us and understand that suicide can impact anyone at any point and we all have to be part of the solution.
If you would like to know more about the OLLIE Foundation visit their website here.