Hayley Gerrard was suddenly made redundant in April. But she’s bounced back and is moving forwards, quite literally over the next few days, all in aid of Norwich and Waveney Mind
I love to help people. I always have, even from a young age. I’ve been very lucky to have been given some amazing opportunities over the years, too. These have included witnessing cutting-edge lifesaving surgery, working alongside a wide variety of famous names, including royalty, whilst a press officer for the NNUH and during my time at OPEN Youth Trust, and also travelling the world. However, I’m happiest when I’m helping people and making a difference to their lives. A friend describes me as having a very strong protective instinct, and always putting others before myself.
At the beginning of 2020 I was heavily involved in the marketing of live music, events and fundraising activities taking place at OPEN Norwich, plus promoting all the activities on offer for children and young people, especially those from a disadvantaged background for OPEN Youth Trust, a charity based in the heart of Norwich.
Ironically, on my last working day at OPEN Norwich, there was an Open Up at OPEN event, which I helped to make happen along with the EDP. The purpose of this event was to bring together support groups, charities and guest speakers, all with the aim of getting people to talk about their mental health experiences. Who knew that this event would be my last and that this was just what my next role would involve?
Suddenly finding myself being made redundant, due to the charity going into voluntary liquidation, was a horrible process to go through. However, I believe that things happen for a reason and the time of unemployment gave me a chance to reflect and re-evaluate on what was next for me in terms of employment. Also, to help with my resilience during this time, it was important to maintain a routine and stick to it. So I still got up, as I would if I was going to work each day, walked my dogs and then sat down and took part in some online training.
Rather than just jump and apply for the first job that fitted my then work portfolio, I started looking at part-time roles. One as a Suicide Bereavement Liaison Worker for Norfolk and Waveney Mind came up and I thought I’d love to do that. That’s what I do now – supporting anyone who has been bereaved by suicide.
Although emotionally challenging at times, the work is very rewarding, and involves providing a listening ear to those who have been bereaved and helping them through the process, such as liaison with the Coroner’s Service and police as well as support at the inquest. Each circumstance is very different and it’s what makes the role interesting, along with being able to help make a difference to those going through a difficult time.
It’s always been important to me that any job I undertake that I believe in the ethos of what I’m doing, and Mind’s values sit very much alongside mine and I feel very fortunate to have found a fantastic new role so quickly.
I have a personal experience of being bereaved by suicide. It’s like a bereavement but with the volume turned up. I’ve also been an active listening volunteer for Samaritans for more than 10 years now. I’m passionate about raising awareness to those who are struggling, encouraging them to reach out for help and not to try and cope alone. There are more than 80 deaths by suicide in Norfolk each year (higher than the national average) and I feel it’s important that we all play our part in trying to lower this number and to support the people who need it when they need it.
Now, more than ever, we need to be talking and supporting each other about how we are coping. We are currently living in a very strange world, the likes of which no one has ever before been experienced. It’s important that we all continue to break down the barriers and stigma of mental health by encouraging people to talk, but to also support those in need by actively listening. I very much believe that we are in this together and as a community if we all help each other we can come through the other side even stronger and more mentally health aware.
As part of World Suicide Prevention Day I’m raising money for Norfolk and Waveney Mind’s Stride campaign by running/walking 10 miles each day from September 10 to 13. Running gives me the headspace I need to be able to support others, and although I’m reasonably fit, to run/walk 40 miles in four consecutive days is a big step (pardon the pun) for me.
To support Hayley’s challenge please donate via https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Hayley-Jane-Hamster
Every £20 raised will help to support someone who has bereaved by suicide for an hour. To find out more about Norfolk and Waveney Mind’s suicide prevent and bereavement service please visit http://www.norfolkandwaveneymind.org.uk/how-we-can-help-you/services-support-groups
If you need to talk, call Samaritans on 116 123.