Salford lecturer named as ‘Woman of Rochdale’ for inspiring charity work

Categories: School of Health and Society

Lecturer Sarah Fitchett has been named as the 2022 Woman of Rochdale for her work supporting Papyrus, the charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide, following the tragic death of her son Ben.

The award celebrates women who have done something extraordinary in and for their community, whether as part of a community group, charity or just carrying out acts of kindness. Nominations are considered by an all-women committee, made up of local people from all walks of life, from lawyers to councillors, businesswomen to retirees.

On receiving the award, Sarah said: “I am still in shock about it, overwhelmed and very honoured. I am so proud to accept the award – I do this in Ben's memory, so that his death will ensure that there is hope for other families and to prevent another family experiencing the heartache of losing a child to suicide.”

Sarah – who is a lecturer in neonatal nursing at the University of Salford – has been a trustee of Papyrus since 2016. She was first introduced to the charity after her son Ben took his own life in 2013 aged 14.

Her involvement started with a HOPEWalk – these are held each October by anyone who wants to raise awareness around suicide prevention. Sarah says that she initially just hoped to share memories of Ben and raise some money to help to save other young lives. This she did, achieving a total of £12,500 with 105 walkers taking part. In 2017 she arranged another HOPEWalk, this time raising around £14,000. 

“I wanted to raise awareness for this crucial charity, and I have had the privilege to do this by sharing our family’s story publicly at events around the country and also on television. I am determined to help others in my situation as a bereaved mother and I proactively do what I can to prevent others from facing the tragedy that myself and our family have had to face,” said Sarah.

“Everything I do could not be achieved without the support of family, friends, and colleagues who know our story of hope out of loss.” 

Sarah also participated in the creation of the Speak Their Name, Greater Manchester Suicide Memorial Quilt, made in memory of everyone that has died by suicide in the city-region. The quilt, which was displayed at Manchester Art Gallery, is made of 54 unique squares, each one lovingly created by someone who is bereaved by suicide. Sarah had two squares in the quilt. “One square was remembering Ben and the other celebrated the support, love and hope the family gained through Papyrus,” she explained.

As well as remembering those lost to suicide, the quilt aims to raise awareness of the impact of suicide and the benefits of peer support and creative activities. Every year, more than 200 people take their own life in the city-region and research suggests that for every person that dies by suicide 135 people are affected.

Photo credit: Ken Rowlett, Hospice Photographer

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