written by Gerry Howitt // Feb 2020 //

You will probably have heard of Beachy Head, Eastbourne, East Sussex.       It is a famous beauty spot with the UK’s highest sea chalk cliffs. You may also have heard that there is a less beautiful side to Beachy Head. Unfortunately, this place of natural beauty has become a place renowned for suicide attempts. 

Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team is a crisis intervention, search and rescue service that seeks to prevent loss of life from suicide at Beachy Head. Since our beginning in 2004 our chaplains have responded to more than 10,600 incidents at Beachy head.  

We patrol a 5-mile search area on foot and by car, identifying people who are displaying possible suicidal traits and engaging with them at the earliest opportunity. Using our skills in crisis intervention we offer supportive listening to start a dialogue and encourage a more hopeful solution than suicide. Our 26 Volunteer and 3 paid trained chaplains are all Christians from local churches and our service is available 24 hours per day, every day of the year. Our role is to reach out, offering support and hope to anyone who is suicidal or in crisis and our values are underpinned by our Christian faith.

We have a very strong relationship and work alongside our excellent police service, coastguard and RNLI colleagues. We also work with the NHS street triage mental health team which ensures the needs of all those we respond to are supported with aftercare.

Here is what Michael told us this year: I suffer from bi-polar and was under considerable pressure New Year’s Eve 2018 and when I woke up that day, I had no intention of taking my life.  However, I believed that my life seemed impossible and that I had no future, despite having a loving family and fiancée and my 3-year-old son.

I could not see at the time that there was any hope and believed that I would never recover from my childhood and the abuse that I suffered.  As the day progressed something clicked.  I knew suicide was the only option to my problems and that was ok.

I had a bath, got dressed and quickly jumped into the car.  My mum remembers me smiling at her as I drove away – she said it looked like ‘I was finally happy and that I’d made a decision’.  That’s when she knew something wasn’t right.

Had it not been for the swift intervention from the Chaplains, I really don’t think I’d be here today.  They found me in the car park and when a lady chaplain approached me, I burst into tears.  The team were amazing.  They made me feel worth something and opened up the idea that possibly life could get better.

They listened to me talk about the abuse I endured as a child, how I was missing my 3-year-old son (I co-parent with my ex) and how I felt trapped. They comforted me, provided a safe space of me to cry and listened to me.  They were my guardian angels.  I owe them my life.

Today, I am looking for work again and so unbelievably blessed to still be alive.  I’ve seen my son start school, my sister is going to have another baby and my partner and I are planning to marry soon.  Without the Chaplains finding me, looking after me, talking to me and getting me the help, I needed, I may not be here today.  You are all absolutely amazing and I owe you my life.

We give thanks that we have experienced many wonderful encouragements throughout the last months and years and we know this is because God worked and people prayed.

Please remember us in your prayers for the following:

  1. For miraculous meetings and divine interventions to continue as a daily occurrence to radically positively change the situations that the desperate find themselves in for Gods glory.
  2. Pray for wisdom and discernment for the chaplains to be able to prioritise when a number of people are requiring attention/intervention at the same time in different locations.
  3. Protection for the Frontline Team and our vehicles and equipment as they patrol each day on foot and by 4X4 in all weather conditions.