An award-winning Teesside charity that helps those impacted by suicide has appointed its first CEO.

Former primary school teacher Anne Cullum has joined the Headlight Project having spent almost a decade in senior leadership roles across education.

Launched by Catherine Devereux following the suicide of her husband, Russ, the Stockton-based Headlight Project provides counselling throughout the Tees Valley for those who have lost a loved one through suicide. It is also developing a preventative education and training programme to roll out to local workplaces, colleges and schools.

Anne, 41, said: “My background is in education – I spent 14 years teaching at primary level, and nine of those were as a senior leader – and I strongly believe that early intervention is key when working with children and young adults.

“I know just how important major experiences that occur during childhood can shape growing minds, and how vital cognitive development is in terms of building the resilience that we rely on so much throughout our lives.

“The Headlight Project already does incredible work in some schools and colleges, across the Tees Valley, and I’m keen to lend my skills and experience within education to develop the education and training programmes to reach more schools and colleges and also our local universities.

“I’m really excited to join the Headlight Project as it moves into the next stage of its growth and development, and to help the charity continue its excellent work across our communities.”

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The charity works to help try and lower the North East’s suicide rate, which has long been the highest in England – with people in the region almost twice as likely to end their lives than those living in London.

Last year, the Headlight Project provided workshops to around 4,000 students at Middlesbrough College to help break that cycle.

Catherine Devereux said: “Even with the title CEO, Anne has shown she’s already shown that she’s willing get stuck into the day-to-day grit that it takes in running a small charity, and we hope her appointment will help the Trust Board drive the strategic direction of the Headlight Project whilst giving us a strong and experienced hand who can oversee and support the team and the charity’s operations on a day-to-day basis.”