Ben’s ChangeMaker Story

Hi my name is Ben, I am a Grassroots ChangeMaker

My background around my own experiences of suicide left me with a keen interest in the topic and desire to be able to help people who were in a similar position to me. Grassroots are the most prominent local organisation and so would come up regularly when looking things up. I was also aware of their profile from promotion of the StayAlive app which appeared across the city, as it was about to be launched at the time. I thought it was a great idea! After leaving university I discovered that they were offering a graduate internship position, which I applied for. The internship role was short, only a period of about four months (Jan-May 2015).

“Nonetheless, I left impassioned about what could be done to support a community become safer from suicide and kept up contact with Grassroots in a voluntary capacity since.”

Having fallen in love with the work of Grassroots during my internship and taken almost all of the training on offer, I have taken as many opportunities to be involved as I can. For example, acting as community support resource for over 20+ SafeTALK training sessions, volunteering at events such as Trans Pride and being part of the fundraising team which brought the Auction of Promises.

Being involved with Grassroots, even in small ways has meant an incredible amount to me

It has changed my perspective of suicide, struggle and life more generally. It is not an exaggeration to say that it has helped me find peace with my own story with suicide and been a significant aid in recovery to a better place.

First, it has given me a set of skills and confidence to have conversations about suicide which I have used many times to support people in my circle rather than feeling hopeless when people I care about need support. I have had friends and colleagues who need support come openly to me because they know of my involvement with Grassroots – I don’t think they would have felt comfortable to speak openly otherwise.

It gave me huge experience of talking about suicide, whether at information stands, in front of groups or people needing support at safeTALK training. This has desensitised the taboo in my mind around talking about suicide and made open honest talking a regular and empowering occurrence for me. Before Grassroots I agreed that talking about suicide, either when at risk or helping others is important, but in both instances I didn’t know how.

“Now I have that confidence to have the tricky conversations.”

The opportunities to talk a bit about my story, whether publicly at WSPD [World Suicide Prevention Day] or informally amongst Grassroots staff and volunteers has proved remarkably liberating. There is a sense of closeness to a community made up of people who can empathise and feel similarly about a huge issue in my life. Another notable thing is that it means you become surrounded by repeated positive messages about suicide – that only serve to help me cope if things are difficult and to be compassionate to myself around things that have happened to me. It acts as a constant reminder of values I believe in being shared by others and reinforces the things I sometimes need to say to myself to feel well.

One of the highlights with Grassroots was marching in Brighton Pride with Grassroots

The opportunity meant that I could march in front of thousands not only proudly stating that I’m LGBT, but also proud to still be here through suicidal behaviours. People applauded the GSP group. It was the first time I ever felt free of stigma and judgement of suicide for the first time and I hope it went some way to destigmatising suicide for people in the crowds. I was surprised how emotional (in a positive way) I felt about it.

There is that sense of purpose from doing something useful

It is not uncommon for me to feel distant from having a useful purpose to the world around me but it does feel both good and empowering to have even the very small role I have had helping an organisation that does so much for people like me when I was 21 and not coping.

I am always happy to get involved with Grassroots – I like to think you can give me a call about an opportunity and I will probably say yes!

Learn more about becoming a ChangeMaker here:

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