TURNING tragedy into hope is the mission of a Rugby woman whose world was ripped apart when her partner took his own life just six months ago.
Life was turned upside down for Claire Russell, 39, when boyfriend Mark Lotsu walked out of the door on Sunday March 5. An hour later the 39-year-old was dead.
Pregnant with Mark’s child at the time, Claire received another devastating blow weeks later when she lost the baby.
Now Claire, an entrepreneur and Samaritans volunteer, is launching a new venture designed to break mental health taboos and save lives by encouraging more open discussion about suicide in the corporate world.
Claire and ex-teacher Mark met through business networking and spent nearly a year together before Mark’s suicide.
She said: “Things were looking really good for Mark and he seemed really excited about our plans. Then on, March 5, Mark took his own life. He’d been with me that day and had spent a lot of the weekend with friends who said he appeared to be happier than he had been in a long time.
“I could have gone over the edge as I was in a really precarious position but thanks to the amazing support network around me I didn’t. There was something for me to do and this is it.”
Despite all the tragedy of the past few months, Claire says she saw early on that she could create something positive out of something so awful.
“I know it may be difficult to fully understand but I realised there was a purpose for me,” she said. “So, capitalising on my 20 year corporate career, I am now going back into the corporate world and working with organisations to help them to effect change.”
Driven by her own experiences, which also include a personal battle with depression, anxiety and alcohol misuse, Claire wants to share her story and bring mental health support and awareness into UK boardrooms through training, workshops, coaching and more.
Claire Russell Ltd will not only offer the skills of trainers and coaches, it will also bring the experience of people who have battled issues around mental health and suicidal thoughts, such as substance and alcohol abuse.
“There are huge taboos and stigma around mental health and suicide and I am on a mission to start busting them, removing them and getting people talking honestly, openly and frankly about the issue,” Claire said. “It’s the only way we are going to see the necessary change.
“This has a huge ripple effect. By working with businesses, we can change our working culture, creating a much more positive attitude towards mental health. This in turn helps businesses better support the people who work in their organisations.
“I’ve been passionate about working with people with mental health issues, specifically with people who live with suicidal thoughts, for many years. Being involved with The Samaritans and what’s happened with Mark has fuelled this even further.
“If I can be a part of effecting change then it somehow makes everything that’s happened to me easier to bear.”
Mental Health Foundation statistics show suicide to be the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales.
World Suicide Prevention Day takes place today (Monday September 10). Visit www.samaritans.org for more information.