A Perthshire mum who lost her teenage son to suicide has started a series of fundraising challenges to raise awareness of the importance of talking – and listening – to others.
Blairgowrie ’s Susan Hart is walking or cycling 5km every day for six months from June 2 to December 2 in memory of her son Jordan, who died in November last year just days before his 17th birthday.
Along with her husband Gavin and daughter Bethany, the family is hoping to raise funds for a series of benches in the town.
The benches will be ‘happy to chat – happy to listen’ benches, providing a space where people can come together and talk, helping to reduce social isolation.
Susan started her 5km challenge on Wednesday last week when the family took part in a 100-mile cycle on static bikes at Perth College UHI, where Jordan was a student.
And as well as her daily 5km, she is also working with local organisations on other awareness-raising events, including a 24-hour walkathon in the Wellmeadow on Saturday, July 31, which will see representatives from groups and clubs take it in turns to walk around the town centre focal point for a one-hour slot.
Susan explained: “Since Jordan’s death, we have been looking at how we can help others.
“Jordan wanted to be a PT instructor and sport and fitness was something he loved so I wanted my challenge to be something physical.
“After I was involved in a car accident in December 2019, Jordan did so much research to support my recovery, encouraging me to stretch and exercise to help my own physical and mental wellbeing, so carrying that on in some way seemed like the best way to honour him.”
Susan went on: “He was also a great listener, which is where the idea for the benches came from.
“Social isolation affects so many people, particularly at the moment with the impact of the COVID restrictions and lockdowns on people’s mental health, and we wanted to do something to help the community as a whole.
“I just thought about having one bench to start with but we’ve been thinking there are so many places in the town where we could have them that we could try to raise money for a few.
“We want to raise enough funds to buy the materials for several benches and then hope to work with groups such as the Men’s Shed, Wisecraft and Blairgowrie High School to build them.
“The idea is that the benches help bring the community together, either while they are being fundraised for, built or when they are in place.
“A proportion of whatever we raise will go towards The Lighthouse for Perth as well in support of their new outreach service at Blairgowrie High School.”
Susan said that Jordan, who was dyslexic and on the autistic spectrum, had struggled with lockdown.
“Although it didn’t define him, he did struggle with his dyslexia. He liked routine and found it hard in lockdown not being able to go to Cadets, for example, or even get out of the house in the bad weather and be active.
“He had such a big heart and was always there for others but couldn’t bring himself to talk to a stranger about how he felt, he didn’t want to burden others with what he was going through.
“If by me and Beth and Gavin talking about suicide it helps reduce the stigma around it and around mental health in any way at all, if it helps one family not to have to go through what we’re going through, then that’s what matters.
“It needs to be talked about and we want children, young people, mums, dads and grandparents to know that it is okay to talk.
“And that’s what these benches are all about, people coming together to talk and to listen.”
To support Susan’s challenge, go to https://gofund.me/0491376d
• The Samaritans are available 24/7 to talk to anyone, whatever they are going through. Call free on 116 123.
• The Lighthouse for Perth can be contacted on 0800 121 4820 from 10am to 4pm, Mondays to Thursdays and from 8pm to 2am on Fridays and Saturdays, or by emailing [email protected]