A mental health charity, backed by model Jourdan Dunn, is appealing for donations to its fundraising drive to provide mental health support to those living with sickle cell in the UK.

Despite there being an estimated 15,000 people with sickle cell and around 15 million with a chronic illness in the UK, there is currently no charity providing dedicated mental health support and therapy to those living with these illnesses and their support systems in the UK.

This disparity is why the founders of the newly established The Essenelle Foundation have rolled up their sleeves to give tangible support by organising their inaugural fundraiser.

In recent weeks, the deaths of two young sickle cell patients have highlighted the importance of increased support to sufferers. Nineteen-year-old Richard Okorogheye had been isolating during lockdown for the better part of a year with his mum before going missing and was subsequently found dead in woods miles from his home.

sickle cell
Layla Lawson, founder of The Essenelle Foundation

Barely a few days after this, an inquest into the death of 21-year-old Evan Nathan Smith, also a sickle cell patient who had died a couple of years previously, stated that “there was a failure to appreciate the significance of Evan’s sickle cell crisis symptoms by those looking after him.”

These two tragedies raised critical questions about what support is available and what more could have been done to avoid the tragic outcomes.

The Essenelle Foundation has launched its inaugural fundraiser during Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May), to raise funds for the much-needed services for those affected by the illness. As part of plans to encourage donations, the charity will be hosting a series of free therapy and holistic sessions with licensed professionals for those affected by sickle cell, as well as raffles to raise the target of £100,000.

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The charity plans to use the money raised to provide access to traditional therapies, counselling and emotional wellbeing courses for sickle cell patients and other chronic illnesses. They will also work with schools, councils and hospital trusts across the UK to educate on the policies that will encourage better practices and better support for the community.

Keen to use her platform to raise awareness of the illness, model, actress and philanthropist, Jourdan Dunn, whose son is also a sickle cell warrior, has joined the charity’s board of trustees.


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A post shared by Jourdan Dunn (@jourdandunn)

Commenting on why she accepted the role, Jourdan said: “TEF services are crucial for anyone impacted by sickle cell as we often forget about the support systems and our mental health. Sickle cell is a disease that needs to be addressed wholeheartedly – not just the physical and medical hardships but the mental impacts too. With my personal experiences with sickle cell, there’s no doubt that TEF’s services would have helped me, so I’m pleased to be a part of the charity.”

Layla Lawson, founder of The Essenelle Foundation adds: “Living with a long-term illness, especially when shielding, can be a huge emotional strain, so it’s important that people with chronic health conditions such as sickle cell have additional mental health support.

sickle cell

“Also, living with the chronic illness or caring for someone with it, can create second-hand trauma and oftentimes these people are left without the support they need. Thanks to the amazing brands, businesses and individuals who are helping us spread awareness, we really hope to raise enough funds to onboard more therapists and service users across the country.”

This illness is one that affects our communities so if you can support this fundraising drive, please do.

Donate to The Essenelle Foundation GoFundMe here.

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