A Bognor Regis man carried a powerful “Someone cares” message with him as he set out on an epic trek to celebrate surviving a suicide attempt.
Paul Shepherd celebrated his 40th birthday by walking away from the beach on which he tried to kill himself two and a half years before.
He turned his darkest moment into the uplifting inspiration for an epic 68-mile foot slog to the London Eye – a fund-raising thank you to the London-based male suicide prevention charity, the Campaign Against Living Miserably.
It was CALM who rescued Paul in January 2017 and got him back on his feet – literally. Paul now acts as a CALM running mentor, spreading the word that running can so often be a vital tool in the fight for mental health.
Under the hashtag #someonecares, Paul resolved to walk from Bognor to London to show that there is always someone who cares – despite the shocking statistic that in the UK every day 12 men under the age of 45 take their own lives.
Paul set out from the beach at Bognor on Thursday afternoon joined by his best mate from his school days Jonathan Eyre; by Jenna Foulger, a friend through CALM; and by Phil Hewitt, Sussex Newspapers group arts editor, who interviewed Paul for his best-selling new book Outrunning The Demons (available here)
Paul was delighted with the way his #someonecares message was received – and the response the walk received.
One of the most moving moments came, just six miles in, when a cyclist handed over a substantial donation to the cause and said simply “This is for my son who tried to kill himself” before cycling on.
“For me, what was really great was the realisation that people really really do care,” Paul said. “The most inspiring part of the journey were the people that stopped us and spoke to us. We were just four people in orange vests, random strangers, but people stopped us and supported us.
“And we got the message out there. I am gutted that I wasn’t able to finish, but we got the message out, and to see the group of people reach the finish at the London Eye was just amazing. These people weren’t doing it for a medal. They were doing it because they cared.”
Paul, Jon, Phil and Jenna were joined by CALM supporters Ciran Madanes and her husband-to-be Gilles Catteeuw after 33 miles at 3.30am in Ockley, but sadly after about 40 miles, between 6am and 7am in Dorking, Paul was forced to pull out of the walk with completely shredded feet and a hideously swollen ankle. Jenna accompanied him by train to Waterloo.
Jon, Phil, Ciran and Gilles slogged on, crossing over the M25 at about 9.30am.
13 miles from the end, they were joined by Matt Lowing of Bloomsbury Publishing UK, who worked with Phil on Outrunning The Demons; and 11 miles from the end, they were joined by Jane, Paul’s twin sister, also celebrating her 40th birthday that day.
Paul and Jenna were there at the London Eye to welcome them all home at the end of the journey, 25 hours and 68 miles after starting out from Bognor, sealing a remarkable turn-around for Paul.
In January 2017, Paul hit rock bottom. He got the train from work in Chichester back to Bognor where he still lives. It was late at night.
In pitch darkness he wandered down to the loneliest stretch of beach he could find… and walked into the sea. But then something remarkable happened. He says ‘maybe the universe spoke to me’.
A few minutes later, in the dark, dripping and frozen, back on the beach, he phoned CALM who talked through everything with him there and then… and helped him put his life back together again.
Paul’s #someonecares walk was conceived as the biggest most public way to thank and the chance to raise as much money as possible for CALM.
You can contribute to the Paul’s fundraising on https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/someonecares1
Phil said: “It was an absolute privilege to be part of Paul’s journey, and when Paul had to pull out, it seemed even more important to me and Jon that we should complete the trek. #someonecares was the best possible motivation – and completely summed up the day.
“I met Paul when I interviewed him for Outrunning The Demons, a book I wrote after being stabbed and left for dead in a grisly expanding pool of blood in a Cape Town suburb three years ago. The trauma of it all was hideous… and there are aspects of it all which still make life very difficult now.
“But as soon as I met Paul, there was an instant bond. He knows exactly what it is like to think you are facing the end. Talking with Paul helped me massively. He is such a kind, generous thoughtful guy – and a very dear friend who was wanting to make a very public statement.”
Paul is hoping his walk will encourage people to think about the links between us that make us human.
“I ache all over today,” Phil said. “I can barely walk.... but I am just overjoyed to have been part of something so extraordinary and so important. The utterly chilling thought though is that during the 24 hours or so we were walking, 12 men under the age of 45 killed themselves in the UK.”
Please support Paul Shepherd's fundraising...
And Ciran Madanes' fundraising
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