Meeting Professor Hawton in 1992 was a memorable occasion as it was over a cheese sandwich sitting on the cricket grounds at the Warneford, Oxford. We were there to discuss a potential future role as the IASP UK National Representative taking over the bat from Professor Louis Appleby – professor of psychiatry in Manchester. The result was a draw: “no” to the role as National Representative but “yes” to initiating the British Isles Suicide Research
Workshop, now in its 27th year!
Keith has led the movement of suicide research and prevention over 40 years, both nationally and internationally taking on the challenges of reducing suicide across the age groups but in particular focused on the young in combating the complexities of deliberate self-harm. He has advanced our parameters in suicide prevention for many years through embracing the top colleagues in research and in the voluntary sector; combating the use of analgesics as a means of suicide; and confronting the media in their reporting of suicide that has resulted in internationally acknowledged guidelines. The Oxford Centre for Suicide Research has an open door policy which promotes collaboration, consistency of evidence-based prevention strategies and continuity of a high standard of delivery.
His personal mantra has been from research to practice and those who have worked with him have fully benefitted from his ambition to share, mentor and collaborate in the global arena. Thinking back to the cricket grounds in Warneford, Oxford reminds me of another cricket pitch; one where on a working trip in rural India visiting a remote study site in Tamil Nadu on a hugely hot day, Keith suddenly asked the van driver to immediately stop at the side of the road where a team of young children were playing cricket with three sticks as a wicket. Keith was in there – joined the youngsters – conversed fluently in English whilst they listened and conversed in Tamil and so the game was played. We waited under a nearby tree watching him in his element, how the young loved it and how, we as spectators, admired his agility both physically and mentally.
As a friend I have enjoyed these interludes, endured many hours of Leonard Cohen; walked the golf courses “silently” post many conferences and shared the love of your family and until recently your wonderful wife, Joan.
Keith, so many congratulations from us all on receiving this prestigious award from Her Royal Highness, the Queen of the UK. Your dedication to suicide prevention is well deservedly endorsed and followed by your fellow researchers and international colleagues, your golfing buddies and most of all by your family and friends.
Vanda Scott, OBE
IASP International Advisor