Thousands to take to the streets as clocks go back to raise suicide awareness

As the clocks go back on Sunday, thousands of people across the UK will take to the streets to raise suicide awareness.

The Lost Hours Walk, organised by mental health charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm), encourages people to deal with their grief “differently and defiantly”.

The event is in its second year and last year saw participants walk 20 miles around central London, sharing stories of their lost loved ones, to raise money for the charity.

This year, due to the need for social distancing, walkers from all parts of the country will plot their own route and can choose one of three distances, three miles, 13 miles or a full 26 miles.

Calm says that, in the six months since national lockdown was announced, its helpline has answered 71,261 calls, over 12,000 hours, and directly prevented 253 suicides.

According to the charity 125 people take their own lives every single week in the UK, and only a third of people who die by suicide have been in contact with specialist mental health services in the year before their death.

Walkers participating in the first Lost Hours Walk (Hannah Goodwin/Calm/PA)
Walkers participating in the first Lost Hours Walk (Hannah Goodwin/Calm/PA)

Kevin Hingley, from south Northwood, in London, plans to walk a full 26-mile route with five of his friends via several football grounds across the capital.

Mr Hingley, 33, has struggled with his mental health and considered taking his own life in summer last year.

“I was at work and for a couple of months leading up to that point I had been suppressing some feelings of struggle and not acknowledging them, not talking about them and letting it build up as so many people unfortunately do,” he said.

“It all came to a head one day when I was at work and I wasn’t able to concentrate, I couldn’t make any decisions or communicate with anyone or do anything.

“I was frozen and frightened and this panic built and built.

“It culminated in some very serious suicidal thought and I left the office in the middle of the day without telling anyone where I was going with those intentions.”

London Bridge (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
London Bridge (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Mr Hingley plans to finish his walk at London Bridge, near to where he works, where he says he first found the clarity to seek help.

He says the group, originally a WhatsApp group for organising post-work drinks, was a “key” support network and a way he could “safely and easily remind myself of normal life” when having a depressive episode.

“It would often be my only social interaction during that time but it would always be there any time of day,” he said.

“I’d know that my friends were there and even if I wasn’t talking I could safely and easily remind myself of normal life.

“That was really important for me at the time.

Mr Hingley said that communication was crucial to being able to take steps to deal with issues relating to mental health.

Walkers participating in the first Lost Hours Walk (Hannah Goodwin/Calm/PA)
Walkers participating in the first Lost Hours Walk (Hannah Goodwin/Calm/PA)

“When you’re in that place the illness is based on thoughts so when you keep it to yourself you’re incredibly unlikely to be able to just work out of that yourself.

“That’s why talking and sharing is important because you need that outside perspective, you need to let help in and have someone guide you through it.”

The WhatsApp group has been renamed to Cans Against Living Miserably, as a nod to the friends’ lockdown socialising and the charity.

Commenting on this year’s event, Simon Gunning, chief executive of Calm said: “Calm is all about getting people together to celebrate life, to remember those we’ve lost, and to move forward together towards a more open and supportive society.

“Despite the restrictions caused by Covid, we’ll be out in force up and down the country to take the (daylight savings) hour to think about that person, what we might do with that person if we had them back, how we might use the time.”

Donations to Mr Hingley’s walk can be made at https://www.lost-hours.co.uk/fundraisers/cansagainstlivingmiserably and the group will be posting updates on the night using the hashtag #CANSforCALM and #LostHoursWalk.

Those wishing to participate in the Lost Hours Walk on Sunday can still register at https://www.lost-hours.co.uk/.

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