Hospice UK is delighted to announce Simon Blake OBE as the Chair of its Dying Matters campaign, bringing with him a track record of successful campaigning to support people in breaking some of society’s biggest taboos.
Simon has dedicated his career to helping others find their voice, championing an array of social issues including sexual and reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights and Health Education (PSHE) and Citizenship.
As Chair of Dying Matters, Simon will help drive forward the campaign’s mission to normalise conversations around death, dying and grief – a cause he has embodied during the illness and deaths of his brother, and more recently his mother.
He has spent his career in the third sector working on a range of issues some people don’t find easy – drug education, volatile substance abuse, sex education, children’s rights, racism, HIV, young people and sex, LGBT rights and mental health. He received an OBE in 2011 for his services to the voluntary sector and young people.
Simon has been Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England since October 2018, where he leads the organisation’s work to normalise society’s attitudes and behaviours around mental health, with a vision to improve the mental health of the nation.
He said: “I am committed to challenging injustice wherever and however I see it. No issue should be a taboo. I believe we need a society in which everybody’s voices are heard, their experiences valued and prejudices eradicated.
“I want an open culture in which we talk about issues even when they frighten us, because silence and euphemism at best doesn’t help, at worst does great harm.
“I’m delighted to join The Dying Matters campaign. Too many of us are ill prepared to deal with dying, death and grief, and the last year has really brought into sharp relief just how much that has to change.
“My first job was in the HIV sector when people were still dying from the virus. As with HIV, Covid-19 has brought us face to face with death in ways we never expected. Learning to talk about and manage serious illness, dying, death and grief with honesty, compassion and love is an urgent task.
“Now is the time to learn from our experiences, to make sure we talk about death, dying and bereavement. I have learned that conversations about death don’t necessarily get easier, but taking a deep breath and having them does, and most importantly that they can make such a difference to the dying person and those who love them.
“As Chair of the Dying Matters Campaign, I want us to build a culture where we understand dying, death and bereavement processes so we can talk about them with clarity and confidence, so we can be better prepared and better able to console each other.”
Dying Matters is Hospice UK’s flagship campaign, that aims to create an open culture that talks about death and where people feel able to listen and support those who are planning for end of life, who are dying and who have been bereaved.
Hospice UK and Dying Matters believe that everyone, no matter who they are, where they are or why they are ill, should receive the best possible care at the end of their life.
Hospice UK is the national charity working for those experiencing dying, death and bereavement. We work for the benefit of people affected by death and dying, collaborating with our hospice members and other partners who work in end of life care.