The friends and family of a young woman who took her life last year held a fundraiser to encourage people to speak out about mental health.
Natalie Thomas, from Ruislip, would have turned 30 this year and longtime friend and classmate at Queensmead School in Queens Walk, South Ruislip, Jenny Barnes, wanted to do something to mark the occasion.
“Because it would be her 30th birthday I was thinking about her and I wanted to do something to raise awareness of mental health and if we could raise money for charity too that would be a bonus,” she said.
The fundraiser, organised by Miss Barnes and supported by a number of friends, relatives and generous donators, was held at Goals in Victoria Road, South Ruislip.
It was a huge success, raising more than £1,700 for the charity Mind.
But more than that, it helped Miss Barnes, 31, to get people talking about mental health problems, which she hopes will soon get the same attention as physical illness.
“I think it’s such an important thing, I hope that people will know that it’s ok to be talking about it and you are not alone, there are people who can help,” she said.
“It has started to change, after Robin Williams died, people actually started talking about mental health as a serious issue. It’s an invisible illness, so people don’t understand how devastating it can be, but also how common it is.
“We really just wanted to raise awareness and get people talking about mental health and hopefully if we are talking about it the government will start to take notice,” she said.
Wristbands were sold at the fundraiser, along with raffle tickets for a host of prizes that had been donated by people who knew Natalie, including a gym membership and spa break.
South Ruislip ward councillor and former Mayor Allan Kauffman and Mayoress Lynne Kauffman joined the fundraiser, as did Hillingdon Mind’s director Chris Geake.
Natalie was a talented dancer at Ruislip's Sole Performing Arts and a performance by her cousin Hayley Luckett and friend Gemma Gilson, who dance with Freedom of Dance in Cowley.
“It was a great evening and I’m glad we could raise the money we did,” Miss Barnes said.
Samaritans are available round the clock, for anyone struggling to cope, by phone 08457 909090 or email on email@example.com