Nine years ago, Katie Houghton planned to take her own life. It was a message from her friend that popped up on her laptop screen at just the right time which stopped her from going ahead.
“That one message ultimately broke my train of thought that night and saved my life,” Houghton told HuffPost UK. “That’s why I do what I do. You never know what or when that moment could be for someone.”
The 33-year-old mental health campaigner from Solihull is using her experiences to try and help others with mental illness, particularly through the holidays, which can be a difficult and stressful time for so many.
Houghton, who also owns a shop on Etsy, made 230 acrylic hearts with messages of hope on them and attached 100 of them to a tree in Shirley Park, Solihull, before Christmas. And they’ve already helped people, she says, including a grieving man who lost his wife.
“The elderly man was stood behind me and I didn’t notice him at first,” said Houghton of their chance encounter. “Then he asked if he could have a heart and I told him of course he could.”
The pair got chatting and the man revealed he’d lost his wife in 2017 and was fed up because he felt like he should be over it and able to move on.
“We spoke and I told him he didn’t need to feel that way, that 12 months is no time at all and we all process things differently,” the mum of one said. “He was clearly lonely and I offered him a cuddle and he squeezed me so tight and said, ‘I hadn’t had one of those for so long.’
“He asked for a pink heart as it would remind him of her and he really squeezed it, which made me fill up as it was such a sad but lovely moment.”
Each of Houghton’s hearts of hope has a message explaining that people can take one if they are struggling with their mental health or know of someone who is. They also have the Samaritans phone number number on the back for people to call in crisis.
A few days before Christmas, all of the hearts had been taken from the tree so Houghton added more.
With her own mental health journey, she found the smallest acts often made the biggest difference – and hope played a huge part in her feeling better.
“If you have hope that means there is the possibility of change and recovery,” she added. “I didn’t think nine years ago that I would have a daughter, a fiancé, and be managing much better.
“Hope is powerful in that it means there is the chance of things getting better ... and a reason to keep going even when It feels hopeless and impossible.”
HumanKind is HuffPost’s celebration of kindness, featuring people who do incredible things for others or the planet – transforming lives through small but significant acts. Get involved by joining us on Facebook or telling us about the people who you think deserve recognition for their kind works. You can nominate them or share your personal story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: email@example.com
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.