Walkers take part in 20-mile London trek to raise suicide awareness
Walkers who trekked 20 miles overnight through central London were greeted with cheers and bacon sandwiches on Sunday morning at the finish line for an event to raise awareness of suicide.
The first Lost Hours Walk, organised by mental health charity CALM, saw almost 1,000 people take to the streets.
It is the first event of its kind but more than 900 people registered to take part, many of whom have been bereaved by suicide.
Harry Wild, 22, from Poynton in Cheshire, said his feet hurt, but that he felt like he had achieved something important.
He said: “We need to make it more visible, because it seems like it’s an underground issue. The more you talk about it, the more you’re promoting that voice and that issue, and the more you can work towards solving it.
“The first step is acknowledging that it exists.”
Harry completed the full route with his brother Archie, 19, in memory of their father Graham, who died in July.
“Satisfying doesn’t do it justice. You feel like you’ve fulfilled a purpose for someone who missed out on their future. It’s something small, but it’s important,” he said.
The Lost Hours Walk aims to give those affected by suicide “an opportunity to deal with grief differently and defiantly”.
Walkers were given commemorative scarves and LED armbands to wear on the route.
CALM CEO Simon Gunning said the turnout was “overwhelming”.
The charity had hoped to break even by signing up 200 people for the walk, but had been delighted when registrations surpassed 900.
“The atmosphere is exactly what I expected and hoped it would be, which is massively positive,” said Mr Gunning.
“It’s just loads of strangers saying hello to each other, loads of people smiling. It isn’t a sad thing. Whenever we create these moments, the extraordinary thing that comes out of it is the positivity.
“When you see a thousand bodies in one place it’s quite overwhelming, but there’s a real sense of community and a real sense of humanity, and it’s fantastic.”
The event was divided into a 20-mile route, from Greenwich to Oval and back again, via Big Ben, and a shorter 10-mile route that finished at the halfway point.
Former professional footballer Leon McKenzie, who is a CALM ambassador and has previously been open about his own struggles with mental health, said that unity was key to tackling the issue of suicide.
“The Lost Hours Walk tonight is absolutely incredible and just shows, when people come together collectively, what we can all truly achieve.
“The point is trying to understand how we can push forward together and realising that no-one is alone.
“When I was going through my dark times I felt ridiculously alone and I struggled with that. It’s emotional for me.”
According to CALM, 18 people die by suicide every day in the UK and official figures show that the overall number of suicides has risen for the first time since 2013.