good life, good death, good grief

award: contribution to openness about death

 

Winners have been announced of a new award which recognises individual contributions towards promoting more open and supportive attitudes to death and bereavement in Scotland. The winners have been revealed as Robert Peacock, volunteer Director of Death on the Fringe, and film-makers Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds.

 

Robert Peacock runs Death on the Fringe, a series of events exploring death and bereavement which takes place during the Edinburgh Festival. Now in its third year, Death on the Fringe brings together into one programme death-themed comedy, theatre and musical performances, as well as academic lectures and experimental ‘death cabarets’. Robert undertakes the role in a voluntary capacity, and Death on the Fringe brings a unique approach to exploring these difficult issues which has drawn attention from national and international media.

 

Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds have been recognised for their work challenging societal reluctance to talk about the death of children and the grief of parents. Jane and Jimmy’s son Josh was killed in a road traffic accident in Vietnam in 2011. Through film and other media Jane and Jimmy have shared their painful journey through grief, encouraging other parents in similar situations, and challenging society more widely to be more open about death, loss and grief, particularly in circumstances of traumatic or sudden death.

 

The Contribution to Openness about Death Award is awarded by the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care (SPPC), as part of its ongoing Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief initiative to promote more openness about death, dying and bereavement in Scotland.

Mark Hazelwood, Chief Executive of the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care said:

“In Scotland we have a cultural reluctance to talk about the practical realities of death and bereavement, and that can make it difficult to plan ahead. It can also make it difficult for communities to support each other through these difficult times. We hope that this award will draw attention to the fantastic variety of innovative work going on in Scotland, changing cultural norms and enabling people to be more open about these important issues.”

Robert Peacock said:

“It's been an absolute privilege organising Death on the Fringe, working with some amazing performers and hearing the personal stories that people have to share. Seeing it recognised in this way is an added bonus. Audience members often tell us they've been moved by what they've seen or that it's made them think about death differently, and starting that debate is what Death on the Fringe is all about. But of course, winning an award does no harm at all! I'm looking forward to this year's Death on the Fringe even more now and can't wait to reveal the programme.”

 

Jane Harris said:

“We are proud and honoured to receive this award. As Josh’s mum and dad this is of course bitter sweet…... something that no bereaved parent would ever want to be nominated for…... but we would like to thank the panel for recognising our work.

It is a great vote of confidence for our projects and we will continue to contribute to conversations about death, dying and bereavement. While we may fear death we need not fear those who grieve. ”

Shortlist

Others shortlisted for the award were:

Shirley Fife

Nurse Consultant, Cancer and Palliative Care, NHS Lothian

Shirley Fife has been shortlisted for her work leading the introduction of health promoting approaches to palliative care in NHS Lothian. Her work has been innovative, challenging people working within healthcare environments to engage with issues around death, dying and bereavement. This has included work with clinical colleagues in other specialties, and with NHS communications professionals, and she is also involved in steering a scoping review of research into health promoting palliative care. As well as working with health care professionals Shirley has engaged new groups in the community, and has been an active in leading participation in national Death Awareness weeks and To Absent Friends.

Lesley Riddoch

Journalist

Lesley Riddoch has been shortlisted for her work modelling discussion and debate of end of life care in the mainstream media. Lesley is well known for her views on nationalism, equality and the merits of learning from Scandinavian approaches to a range of issues. Her Scotsman article, Forget same old for end of life care of 10th January attracted much attention and challenged Scotland to think about end of life care, and to be ambitious and imaginative. This nomination is an acknowledgement of the positive impact of a mainstream figure from Scottish public life modelling openness and engaging with issues relating to death and dying.

Final Fling

Website

Final Fling has been shortlisted for its website which as well as providing practical information and planning resources, also encourages people to get the most out of each day. Final Fling's 'Head of the Family', Barbara Chalmers is an pro-active champion who promotes more openness about death, dying and bereavement in a range of fora.

Undergraduate Nursing team, University of Dundee

Led by Lynn Griffin, Lecturer in Nursing

Lynn Griffin and colleagues have been nominated for their work building an undergraduate nursing curriculum that incorporates issues relating to death, dying and bereavement, enabling new nurses to have knowledge and confidence in dealing with these issues in their personal and professional lives. They have led the way in participating in national initiatives such as To Absent Friends and Death Awareness Week, and have used innovative ways to engage students, for example Before I Die Walls, Death Cafes, art exhibitions, and a virtual wall of remembrance. They have received local and national media interest in their work.

Counselling Team

Ayrshire Cancer Support

The Counselling Team at Ayrshire Cancer Support have been shortlisted in recognition of their role enabling people to talk over their fears of dying and how to talk to their loved ones about their death. The team supports many individuals and families who are receiving palliative care or have a poor prognosis. This is a difficult and hugely emotional role yet counsellors often talk of the huge sense of job satisfaction they feel when working with individuals and families. The counselling service works collaboratively with NHS Ayrshire and Arran who provide supervision and support for this hard working team.

Catherine Calderwood

Chief Medical Officer for Scotland

Catherine Calderwood has been nominated for the leadership provided in her Annual Report 2014-15, entitled Realistic Medicine. This report urges clinicians to consider the importance of outcomes as people reach the end of our lives, and to acknowledge the harm that can be caused by over-treatment. It encourages doctors and the wider health profession to be realistic about death and dying and to acknowledge that this is a natural process that needs as much understanding and communication as it does ‘treatment’. The title ‘realistic medicine’ is a challenge to modern medicine to re-think priorities.

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