“We will never stop fighting for Fia.”
Those seven words are the founding motto of a mental health support charity, being set up in memory of Sophia Theobald, by her family and friends.
As they struggle with the heartache of losing the 27-year-old, who passed away last year, they are channelling their grief into supporting the hundreds of people in our district living with mental illnesses.
Fia, as she was fondly known, was a striking model and aspiring mental health nurse, living with anxiety and depression.
In July last year, she became so overwhelmed by her illnesses that she took her own life.
Her mum Jaquie Hanson said: “Nothing can ever describe my devastation. My funny, vivacious, confident daughter was gone. My entire world collapsed.
“There will forever be a Sophia shaped hole in my life that nothing will fill. I don’t want another mother to have to go through this, another family to be ripped apart by something that can be avoided with the right care and treatment.
“That is why I am starting The Fia Not Campaign, a Wakefield based community group with aims of becoming a charity.
“I want to provide a safe house for young people struggling with poor mental health and provide practical and emotional support for them, sign post them to services in the area, let them know someone cares.
“We need to fight for our loved ones, support them through their struggles and let them know that it can get better.
“We need to keep fighting for Fia, to carry on her legacy and help people, as she wanted to herself.
“I need to do it. It’s what she would have wanted. Even in death I would do anything for my little girl.
“I’m her mum and it’s my job. It has been such a privilege to have such an amazing daughter. I will do her proud.”
Fia, from Lupset, sought help from her GP, a mental health team, a women’s centre, A&E and a crisis team.
But her family and friends believe the mental health system failed her.
Their Fia Not Campaign, backed by The Express, aims to end the stigma around poor mental health, provide a network of practical and social support and a safe haven to those struggling, signpost individuals to services that are available, and challenge issues in the current mental health support system.
Family friend and campaign project manager Donna Hackleton said: “Fia was very special. This may seem like a very typical thing to say about a person who has passed away, but she really was, and it’s because of this we are striving to make a change for the better.
“Fia wanted to get better. She wanted to help others but by not receiving the help she needed, she couldn’t do it.
“If we can save just one other family from going through what we have then it makes her death a bit easier to bear.
“We will keep fighting for Fia. We have got to.”
Fia attended English Martyrs primary school before studying at St Thomas a Becket secondary.
She had several clerical jobs but her latest role saw her volunteer at a homeless hostel, championing mental health support.
She hoped to train as a social worker or mental health nurse and had been accepted onto a counselling course at university.
Fia was also a successful model, working with photographers, magazines and agencies across the country.
She took part in many shoots, including for streetwear brand Fulwood London, whose owner Sarah Burgan has designed the logo for The Fia Not Campaign.
Paying tribute to her daughter, Jaquie Hanson said: “She is my world.
“It was just she and I for 27 years and we were incredibly close.
“We shared the same sense of humour, she was a little mini me.
“I spoiled her to death and she knew it and would joke about it all the time but I never wanted her to go without a thing.
“Sophia was such a light in everyone’s lives.
She was a kind and loving girl with a heart of gold.
“When her friends were struggling, Sophia was the first person to rally round and help them, making cuddle corners in the spare room or taking them on a big night out to forget their troubles.
“It was not a secret that she struggled with her own mental health.
She was very open about it on social media and used her position as a model to break the stigma surrounding poor mental health.”
FIA’S FRIENDS and family are aiming to raise £5,000 to get the group up and running and supporting others.
They estimate they will then need to raise at least £5,000 per year to keep the organisation going.
A series of fundraising events are being planned to help raise money.
The biggest of these will be a music festival - Viva La Fia - in the city centre on October 6.
The event, at Warehouse 23, will include a line-up of bands that Fia supported and will become an annual flagship festival for the group.
Money is being raised through ticket sales, as well as the sale of Viva La Fia merchandise.
The cash will be used to support people living with mental health issues including those at crisis point.
The group’s safe house will provide a haven for people to turn to when they are in need of support.
The service will be survivor-led by volunteers who can act as a listening ear, offer advice, and help people to find coping strategies that suit them.
For more information about the group and Viva La Fia, and details of other events, visit vivalafia.co.uk or visit The Fia Not Campaign on Facebook.
TIME TO CARE
Last week The Express launched its Time to Care campaign.
We are highlighting the reasons why there is a need to care, looking at issues affecting people in our communities and the work being done to address them.
We need to care about poverty and homelessness, about loneliness. We need to care about our children and our elderly and about people in need of healthcare and social support. We cannot end the struggles that many in our district are facing but together, showing kindness and compassion. Little gestures can make a difference.
* Get involved in our campaign by telling us what you are doing to help others - email firstname.lastname@example.org