Words Matter

by Givey Team

12 June 2024

“There was a time when I had two parents. I was young, and I was confident that was the way life would be for us.

But one day, I got pulled out of class and saw my mum walking towards the school with my godmother. I was told that my dad hadn’t shown up for work the day before, and it turned out that before anyone realised he was missing, he had died by suicide.”

This is the start of a compelling story told by my daughter, Evie, who, at just nine years old, lost her dad under the most unexpected and tragic circumstances. Evie’s story, beautifully animated by the talented team at Alive With Ideas goes on to explain the damaging impact that words can have when one has suffered a devastating loss like this. And it prompts people to think about the potentially upsetting effect of the language they use.

It’s a powerful message that everyone needs to hear. 

Facing a new fear

In 2020, three years after Steve’s sudden death and six months into the global pandemic, Evie started senior school. She was 11, and had settled in well, making new friends and taking her studies seriously.

But over time, Evie began to pick up on conversations that deeply upset her. “I’ll kill myself if I have to sit through another lesson like that,” seemed to be a common phrase she’d hear at school. And it wasn’t just in class that she’d find such triggering language. The acronym KYS (Kill Your Self) was commonly used online, in WhatsApp groups and across social media channels too. 

Animating the unimaginable

So what did Evie do? Like me, Evie found calm and comfort in writing. She crafted a touching story about the pain that words like these can cause, about her experience of losing her dad to suicide, and about the way that this language was making her feel. She put aside her own sensitivities and anxieties to stand up for something she believed others needed to hear.  

I’d spoken about Evie’s experience to a few of my team members at Alive and the suggestion was made to take the story she’d written and turn it into an animation, complete with illustrations, and music. After a polish up of the words I’d suggested to Evie that she might like to do the voiceover herself, perhaps even with a little coaching from her drama teacher, but she decided this might be a little too painful, she had her limits, so the words were read sensitively by a professional voiceover artist.

Words Matter on Vimeo

Using the power of words and stories for good

When done in the right way, and using clear and emotive language, stories like Evie’s can elevate important causes to another level, bringing messages to life in the most impactful ways to drive positive change.
I shared Evie’s story on social media to raise awareness of the need for more awareness and consideration around the topic of suicide and to promote the work that great causes are doing to support with this mission. And people responded in the most beautiful way. Communities locally, nationally and globally connected over Evie’s clear call to action: Words matter, so think before you speak. Please, make kindness a promise that you keep.

Making a positive impact everywhere

These are just a few of the comments received so far: 

  • “Evie is using her experience, whether through this animation or as a wellbeing ambassador, to inspire and uplift others.”
  • “Excited to share a powerful story that truly resonates with the core of our work at Givey.”
  • “Evie’s film is being added to the PHSE curriculum at school. The teachers watched it last night and there were tears from all of them!”
  • “I make a living from grief education. Evie’s story is now part of the stories I will tell.”
  • “Evie’s words could be a lifeline for others.”
  • The video that Evie has conceived has made a positive impact in many different environments; a testament to the quality and courage she has.”
  • “My sister is really brave for doing this, because it’s a hard thing to talk about. She is really the best sister ever, and the bravest sister ever.”
  • “Evie’s unwavering commitment to fostering kindness and fairness in a world often lacking both is truly awe-inspiring.”

Evie’s animation, Words Matter, is now being shown to parents, teachers and PTA committees around the country. Mental Health First Aiders, staff networks, groups and line managers are using it in their workplaces too. It’s been added to websites that provide wellbeing support and resources for young people, the NHS are using it in nurse inductions, and it’s being played in training sessions by bereavement charities like Cruse.

I am so unbelievably proud of how Evie has faced her fear and taken on such a monumental challenge to help make the world a better place for young people and adults who are experiencing the pain and horror of loss by suicide. To me, Evie is a shining star in the darkness and the epitome of hope and light.

By Caroline Roodhouse  

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