Student whose dad took own life writes play to break mental health stigma - The Rugby Observer

Student whose dad took own life writes play to break mental health stigma

Rugby Editorial 29th Apr, 2019   0

AN ‘INSPIRATIONAL’ young man who was just 15 when his father took his own life is using drama to break the stigma around mental health.

Student Tom Wood, 18, has written and directed Project Semicolon, a mental health awareness play which will be performed as part of Rugby College’s Live Theatre Action Festival in June.

When dad Karl Wood died by suicide in 2016 at the age of 41, Tom ‘had to grow up overnight’ support his disabled mother and siblings.

He told The Observer: “It was a massive shock – at first I did not think it was real. It’s like a part of me was taken away that night.

“My life has changed massively in the past three years. I lost friends as I didn’t know how to communicate anymore.

“I was angry at society because my dad felt he couldn’t speak out and ask for help. He felt he had to be the man of the family. This should not be the way.”

He now wants to raise more awareness of mental health conditions – and to make his dad proud.

Tom and dad Karl, pictured 18 years ago when Tom was a baby.

“I want a future where everyone feels they can speak out about their issues and knows there will be someone to support them,” he said.

Tom has raised over £600 for the Coventry and Warwickshire Mind mental health charity, and has been appointed to the National Youth Board of the National Citizen Service.

His strength and dedication has seen him win Carer of the Year at the Pride of Rugby Awards 2017, and a Special Award at the same event a year later.

He has also been shortlisted for the Champion of the Year title at this year’s national Children and Young People’s Positive Practice in Mental Health Awards, which take place on May 11.

And now determined Tom has written the play for his end-of-year performing arts project at Rugby College, to tackle modern-day problems around mental health.

Tom performing on stage.

The former Avon Valley School student said: “Project Semicolon uses many different aspects of theatre to break the stigma of mental health.

“A semicolon is when an author could have chosen to end their sentence but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.

“Although some of the content is distressing, I didn’t want to hide away from taboo themes.

“I want people to know that in life there will always be someone there for you, to be more aware of the support there is, and how everyone can change to help mental health.

“Locally we can do more, for those who are struggling today or for those we have lost on the way.”

Coventry and Warwickshire Mind chief executive officer Steven Hill is grateful to Tom for his efforts.

He said: “Tom is a brilliant young man and inspiration to many.

“We are delighted by the support he has shown us in fundraising for our mental health services and raising awareness that mental health matters, particularly among other young people.

“Tom’s achievements are richly deserved and we wish him luck with his forthcoming productions of Project Semicolon.”

The charity offers a range of free support services to people with mental health problems. Visit for more information.

Project Semicolon will be performed at Rugby College’s Platform Theatre in Technology Drive on June 11 and June 18 at 7pm.

Visit or call 01788 863058 for tickets.


Receive a weekly update to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter.

Reader Travel

Check out all of the latest reader travel offers to get your hands on some free gifts.


Find a career you'll love with our free career finder website.


Advertise with the Rugby Observer to reach your audience