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The Boat of Hope

This week we had the pleasure of meeting Bernie Hollywood OBE JP, the founder of The Boat of Hope and Richard Bland, the founder of The Andrew Bland Foundation. They gave thought provoking presentations to RAF personnel and cadets about mental health, depression and suicide. 

The aim of the Boat of Hope campaign is to open up a conversation about mental health and to use creative arts and adventure as a way of expressing how we feel inside our heads. 

“Two years ago I had a conversation with my son who has mental health issues and I asked him the question of how we can help. From here, I decided to create the Boat of Hope campaign to make sure no one else’s child felt this way. The statistics are startling 50% of all mental health issues happen before the age of 14. Over 300 children aged 11-18 committed suicide last year.”-Bernie Hollywood OBE JP

They found that simply asking children how they feel isn’t effective, whereas creative arts helps children express their feelings when words may be difficult to explain. Whether that is in a painting, music, physical activity, children will find it easier to open up. 

They reached out to their supporting partner Parent Pay and created a nationwide competition, asking 10,000 students what they felt hope meant to them. They were inundated with responses in the form of paintings, drawings, words, music. 

Justin Eagleton, an award winning artist, created a 42 foot mural with all of the content from the 10,000 children in the UK. The mural has been wrapped around the boat that will be sailed through the Atlantic. It depicts children suffering with mental health issues on one side and coming out with hope on the other side.

The boat will be sailing in a race from Tenerife to Antigua which starts on the 12th December. It is a 3000 mile race which Bernie has decided to tackle solo.

“I wanted to do it on my own purely because of the campaign. I want to know how it feels to be alone and have no support.”- Bernie Hollywood OBE JP

The race can take up to 90 days, but Bernie won’t be completely alone in the Atlantic. He will have Wing Commander Andrew Bland (AB) Bear with him. AB Bear was created by Richard Bland, the founder of the Andrew Bland Foundation. Sadly, Richard lost his son, Andrew, to suicide in 2013. Determined to help others effected by the impact of suicide and those in need of mental health support, Richard set up the Foundation, along with AB Bear.

Richard and AB Bear have close connections with the RAF, with AB Bear flying in 60 different aircrafts including being flown by HRH The Duke of Cambridge. The Bear has also previously been deployed for 9 months to boost morale for troops. AB Bear has now become a mental health mascot for the RAF, one might call him ‘the Bear of Hope’, now partnering up with the Boat of Hope to make a difference in the way mental health is recognised and supported.

“I know how incredibly difficult it is to talk about what’s going on inside your head… we all have physical health and focus on that on a daily basis, but our mental health can get pushed to the side. In reality, it is just as important as physical health and should be exercised in the similar way. Don’t be afraid to reach out. It’s okay, there’s nothing to be concerned about. It doesn’t make you weaker, it makes you stronger.” -Bernie Hollywood OBE JP

“We have had a long and emotional journey since Andrew died, but with the help and support of people like The Dove Service of Stoke-on-Trent, we have been able to cope with the grief. Now we are joining forces with the Boat of Hope, we are able to spread our message far and wide. Talk. Talk. Talk.” -Richard Bland


If you would like to find out more about the campaign, please visit BoatofHope.com

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