Article: Suicide prevention by young people, for young people
An NSPA suicide prevention blog article by Jody Foster, Director and Co-Founder of Ellie’s Angels on suicide prevention by young people, for young people.
In the latest of our NSPA suicide prevention blogs, we hear from Jody Foster, Mum of Ellie and Director and Co-Founder of Ellie’s Angels, as she shares Ellie’s journey with suicidal thoughts, and how it inspired her friends and siblings to design a digital service to help other young people.
“I’ve got 12 weeks to feel like this” 🙁
These were the words of Ellie, aged 15. She, like so many her age, was facing the struggles of teenage life. The pressure of today’s society, education and her body image too. After several months and hitting rock bottom, Ellie reached out for professional help and was told that someone would be in touch in approximately twelve weeks. This felt like a lifetime to a very desperate Ellie and she was ready to give up. The waiting times for support are increasing and this is reflective in the number of suicides we see in young people.
Ellie chose happy, and so can you…
Despite her desperation, Ellie found an inner strength and turned to self-help methods and mindfulness to turn her life around. After several months, she became much happier and was determined to help and empower others, with similar experiences, to do the same. Ellie didn’t die by suicide. Sadly, we lost Ellie in November 2020 after she was hit by a car whilst out jogging. She had just turned 16.
Though this was such a tragedy and devastation for all who knew Ellie, her friends and siblings (our Youth Mental Health Ambassadors) were determined to continue Ellie’s work and help others to manage their mental health and well-being in the ways that she did. In a way that works for their generation and gives them support in a format they are more familiar with. They tell Ellie’s story to inspire their generation and show them that there is hope and there is always a choice. They do this using a video created from Ellie’s own social media posts and other media that she created as well as talking through her lived experience at events and conferences.
“The support we have access to isn’t how we want it. It just doesn’t work”
These are the words of our young ambassadors. They form the majority of our charity and are aged 16 – 19. There are 11 of them in total and they are the voice of their generation and they drive all the work we do. They are Ellie’s Angels.
Together, they have identified what works and most importantly how the support currently offered doesn’t meet their needs. They say that having an older person at school or at the doctors to go to is awkward as they feel that they won’t be able to really identify with them.
They feel it prohibits them from really speaking about some of the things they are really stressed about. For example, they may be wanting to discuss matters about sexuality or gender, and they feel past generations may not be as open minded about this topic. They are also aware that if they are too honest about their thoughts that there may be safeguarding consequences. So, it’s just easier to discuss something else or not go into full detail. This often results in advice being given which isn’t helpful to them.
The better u app
Inspired by Ellie’s brave story, her Angels have used their research to create a self-help, support tool in the form of an app, better u. This app offers their peers ways to manage their mental health and well-being as well as signposting access to a more diverse range of supportive organisations without the wait for the NHS or the need to speak with one person that they feel may not be able to relate to them.
We know it isn’t easy to choose hope and that young people can be experiencing a whole range of difficult issues. Together with Ellie’s team of Angels, we will continue to work with young people to do all that we can to make a difference.
About The Author
Jody is the proud mother of Ellie, whose brave and inspirational story is helping so many other young people like her. She is honoured to be a part of a charity whose members are mostly young people. Having worked in education for over two decades, she is fully aware of the problems young people are facing today and that it is a rapidly growing issue which is why she is both passionate and determined to ensure that the work Ellie’s Angels does is led by young people and focused on them.