Who we are

SOBS was founded in 1991 by Alice Middleton MBE, who is now our founding patron.  Following the death of her brother and finding little support available, she placed an advert in her local paper seeking to make contact with others who had been bereaved by suicide.  She started the first support group from her living room in Hull.

SOBS has grown to become the only national charity providing dedicated support to adults who have been bereaved by suicide.  We currently have around 150 volunteers across the UK who help to run our services – and we continue to grow.  Our volunteers come from all walks of life but nearly all have been touched by suicide themselves, this experience enables them to connect with others.  We have a number of volunteers in Cumbria and the two primary points of contact are John Brown and Karan Smith.


Jim is the facilitator for the South Cumbria group in Kendal. He is a retired computer manager; he lost his wife to suicide and is passionate about providing support for people who have been bereaved through suicide. Jim first attended a SOBS meeting after being told about SOBS by a mutual friend. From there Jim began to support others and is now facilitating the South SOBS group. He is a governor for the Cumbria Partnership Foundation Trust and is the SOBS representative for Suicide Prevention Leadership Group in Cumbria.


Karan Smith

Karan Smith


Karan facilitates the West Cumbria group in Whitehaven. She lost her son in 2010, when he was 21 years old, and first attended SOBS meetings over two years ago when they were held in Keswick. Karan, who works at Sellafield, is keen to run an effective group, "We feel so passionate about supporting people bereaved in this way and the importance of talking and sharing our experiences around suicide, particularly in West Cumbria. Volunteering within the local counselling community and working with the Howgill Family Centre supporting bereaved children and their families has given me valuable skills for supporting the group and its members." Together with her sister, bank manager Joanne Redmond, who fundraises tirelessly for the local community, and her daughter, Hayley Holliday, who works at West Cumberland A&E, Karan’s family work relentlessly to ensure that SOBS has a presence in West Cumbria.  Karan can be contacted by phone on 07896 703 757 or at hello@sobs-cumbria.org.uk.



Why we exist

Each year in the UK, more than 6,000 people take their own life – each suicide has a devastating and lasting impact on their families, friends and communities.  In Cumbria, we lose the equivalent of one person to suicide each week.

Faced with a sudden, often unexpected and sometimes violent death, people who have been bereaved experience a complex grief which typically includes strong feelings of guilt, self-reproach and questioning – “why?”.   Discomfort, shame and stigma associated with suicide can make it difficult to talk about.  There may be further complexities not common to 'normal' bereavements e.g. inquests, media coverage, trauma reactions and difficult family relationships.

Those bereaved by suicide often feel isolated at a time when they are hurting, suffering mental anguish and are vulnerable themselves to thoughts of suicide.  Even those fortunate enough to have strong support networks can still feel alone, unable to share their true feelings for fear of their impact on others, particularly when they are also in a caring role for others who are bereaved.

There are thousands of people in Cumbria who have been deeply affected by suicide.   The emotional, quality of life and financial impacts are long lasting and wide reaching.  It is a major public health issue.

We exist to meet the needs and break the isolation experienced by those bereaved by suicide.   We are a self-help organisation and we aim to provide a safe, confidential environment in which bereaved people can share their experiences and feelings, so giving and gaining support from each other.  We also strive to improve public awareness and maintain contacts with many other statutory and voluntary organisations.

Who we work with

SOBS Cumbria are represented on the Cumbria Suicide Prevention Leadership Group, which includes representatives from Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Cumbria County Council, Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, Cumbria Constabulary, University of Cumbria, Cumbria Probation Trust, Cumbria Newspapers Group, Samaritans, Mind and Unity.

How we are funded

We rely on the generosity of the public, charitable trusts and other organisations to fund our work.   We would like to thank everyone who contributes to our charity – every donation, small and large is welcomed and put to good use, helping to break the isolation and relieve the distress felt by those bereaved by suicide.

Raising the funds to continue our work is a constant challenge –  find out more about supporting us through donations or fundraising.