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Hope After Suicide: The short film raising awareness for the children left behind

Childhood bereavement charity, Winston’s Wish, is set to release a short film entitled #HopeAfterSuicide to raise awareness of the thousands of children who are bereaved by suicide each year.

The film, which has been directed and produced by filmmaker Phil Beastall – the man behind the £50 ‘Love is a Gift’ short that went viral last Christmas – is set for release today which is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Fergus Crow, CEO of Winston’s Wish said:

“In the UK, on average, someone takes their own life every 90 minutes. Many of these may be the parents and siblings of children who are left overwhelmed and bewildered by what has happened – and while public awareness of suicide is increasingly higher, awareness of the consequences for the children bereaved by suicide is not.

“Thousands of children and young people are suffering at any one time, after losing someone close to them through suicide. Based on our current caseloads of suicide-related work (in relation to overall child bereavement stats), we would estimate that approximately 25 children and young people are parentally bereaved by suicide every day in the UK – that’s more than 1,000 children who will have been affected by a parent taking their own life during the school summer holidays alone. Many of these children will have returned to school this September – and the reality of their summer holiday ‘stories’ will be in stark contrast to those of their friends and classmates. They will need support.

“Our aim is to shine a light on the reality of this issue – because if we don’t address it, then we are leaving children to suffer. Suicide is a sudden and often unexpected death which can have a particularly devastating effect on young people. An experience which – left unsupported – can lead to very negative life outcomes.”

Winton’s Wish, which has recently supported BBC EastEnders on their childhood bereavement by suicide storyline, released a report earlier this year which examined the consequences of childhood bereavement in the context of the British school system. The report, which was conducted by The University of Cambridge, found that the death of a parent in childhood can lead onto developmental issues and mental health disorders, bullying or being bullied, lower educational attainment, high-risk behaviour, unemployment, crime and social exclusion.

These risks are increased further when the bereavement is by suicide, with studies showing that ‘people who are bereaved as a result of suicide are themselves at increased risk of taking their own life. If the child had lost a parent due to an unnatural cause, the risk of the child attempting suicide was twice as high as that of a non-bereaved child’.

Evidence shows, however, that for many young people, these risks can be mitigated against with well-managed support.

Director of Family Services at Winston’s Wish, Sacha Richardson explains:

“We know that how a child grieves is vital to their immediate and long term future. We also know, from our years’ of experience, that the support a child receives after the death of close loved one can help to define the rest of their lives. With the right support, a bereaved child can go on to live a full, flourishing and healthy life – and so our message to all those affected is that ‘there absolutely is hope after suicide’.

“The aim of the work we do at Winston’s Wish is to give grieving children this hope. By opening up the most difficult of conversations, we know that they can come to understand their complex emotions and begin to make sense of what has happened to them. We help them to find the words they need to be able to tell their stories.”

Filmmaker Phil Beastall became impassioned with the work of Winston’s Wish after visiting one of its family centres:

“What the charity does for children’s futures is immeasurable – many of the children they work with have been bereaved in deeply traumatic circumstances. I make my living out of telling emotional stories which hopefully make a difference to all who watch them – and when I learned how Winston’s Wish therapeutically supports children in finding the words to be able to tell their own stories – no matter how difficult those stories are – I just had to give my support. These children’s stories need to be heard and I sincerely hope that this film will make a difference not only for the charity but also for the children who need support.”

Fergus Crow concluded:

“My hope, is that this film will not only raise awareness of the devastating effect suicide can have on children but, most importantly, signpost adults who may be supporting a bereaved child to the support and advice available through Winston’s Wish”.