Sheila Stapleton – Welwyn & Hatfield Group

Well, where do I begin?

Hypothetically speaking I wear three hats…

My first hat is torn, tattered, and with no colour, and I suppose represents the loss of my younger brother Billy to suicide in 1996, he was 21 years old at the time. This was followed four years later when my ‘littlest’ brother Wayne, then 15 years old, also took his own life. To make sense of such tragedies takes time, and in those early days just getting through the hours was a positive step. I found that life stood still and yet raced past, and no matter what I thought or felt in this ‘new normal way of life’ was going to bring either of them back. Over time, both Billy and Wayne’s deaths made me take stock on what was real and what was important, and motivated me to learn more about the subject of suicide and the impact on those left behind.

This is where my second hat comes in. This hat resembles something quite memorable and special with spattering’s of colour. I did not know about SoBS back then, and it was only through a google search some 12 years after Wayne died that I found a local SoBS group (Watford). The reason for my search was that I still needed to talk about them, I still needed to acknowledge they were and still are a part of me, a part of my story (my own special scar)! You could say, that it was around this time that I found my passion. I knew that I wanted to play a bigger role in supporting those left behind after experiencing what can only be described as ‘bereavement with the volume turned up’.

So, I went back to school, got myself into college and managed to get a place at University (the first of my family to do so). It was also during this time that I moved house, and realised that there was not a SoBS support group near my new home – so I contacted National Office and with the support of Eric (our CEO), and two other volunteers, set up the Hatfield Support Group in November 2015 (now the Welwyn & Hatfield Group).

What I love most about this group is seeing how many members transform over a period of time. The comfort and hope that they receive from one another is immeasurable, and I feel so fortunate to be in a volunteer position whereby I get to witness this. Of course, there is the part of me that wishes support groups were not needed but that’s the thing with wishes, they do not always come true!

My third hat is bold, vibrant and purple (the SoBS corporate colour), and it really portrays where I am in my life now. My work experience has included working in the automotive industry and in primary care, predominately working in Mental Health (NHS). So, when I was fortunate enough to be appointed by SoBS as a Volunteer Coordinator in October 2019 as a result of the charity’s lottery win, I was over the moon!

My role involves me supporting our current volunteers and recruiting new ones so that we can really expand our peer led volunteer community service nationally. I am also busy maintaining current relationships with other agencies and organisations, whilst reaching out to new ones. I am ASIST trained and play a part in the volunteer training that we provide to our volunteers.

My job role is evolving, as the charity moves forward, and I love that I can evolve with it.

Each day I wear one of my hats, and if I’m honest, I often wear more than one

Read more about the Welwyn &Hatfield Group here