6 Jun 2022  •  Blog, Mental Health  •  3min read By  • Iain Eslick

One man walking to get people talking about suicide

Ian Eslick talks about the tragic story behind an epic walk taking place over the summer.

Every year more than 6,000 people in the UK choose to take their own lives.

That’s a staggering figure and nearly four times the number of people killed on our roads which was about 1,850 per year between 2012 and 2019. Of those 6,000 deaths, nearly three-quarters of them were male. So, it probably won’t be too much of a surprise to learn that suicide is the biggest single cause of death of men under 50.

To try to raise awareness of suicide, on 13th June, John Gibson and his wife Isobel will be setting out to make the 1,200-mile walk from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. They’ll be joined along the way by some supporters and the aim of the walk, or ‘LEJoG’, is to publicise the work of the Canmore Trust, which they founded following the death by suicide of their 24-year-old son Cameron in October 2019. Cameron’s death was completely unexpected as neither family nor friends had noticed anything untoward. The Canmore Trust was set up to work in suicide prevention and to support the relatives and friends of people who have taken their own lives. The charity’s mission is to ‘Create safe spaces for lives impacted by suicide’ and its vision is ‘A world where people feel mentally, physically and societally safe enough to stay.’ The aim of the charity and the walk is to remove the stigma around male mental health issues, suicide in particular and open up conversations across the UK.

John is well known in the dental world as he has held a number of high-profile positions including Professor of Medicine in Relation to Dentistry in the University of Glasgow, Chairman of Fitness to Practise at the GDC, Chairman of Dental Protection and Associate Postgraduate Dental Dean for Scotland. Sadly, suicide can happen to any family or community. Suicidal feelings and thoughts can affect anyone, regardless of age, background or gender. Contrary to popular belief, asking someone directly if they have been having thoughts of suicide does not put the idea in their head. Quite the opposite. By asking someone directly about suicide, you give them permission to tell you how they feel and let them know that they are not a burden. According to the Samaritans website ‘People who have felt suicidal will often say what a huge relief it was to be able to talk about what they were experiencing.’

I and a few of my other Practice Plan colleagues have offered to help the walkers with offers of lifts, somewhere to stay or any other way we can be of use. John has set up a Facebook group called #onemanwalkingamilliontalking where you can find out more about the walk, including the route and his suicide prevention work. If you would like to make a donation to help fund the work of the Canmore Trust you can use their online fundraising page here.

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