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Walk into the light aims to prevent suicide in young people 

12 Mar 2024
Mbro College Building

A Teesside businessman has gathered the support of colleges across the North East, including Middlesbrough College, who will complete a charity ‘#walkintothelight,’ highlighting the issue of suicide in young people, while encouraging them to open up about mental health. 

Alisdair Beveridge, owner of The Build Directory, has already completed several charity ‘walk into the light’ events for the Teesside Charity and various local mental health organisations, including working closely with The Headlight Project, which was set up in memory of Russ Devereux by his wife Catherine to support people bereaved by suicide. 

However, Alisdair was keen to do more to raise awareness amongst young people for a very personal reason. 

Alisdair and his family sadly lost his younger brother Callum, who took his own life at the age of just 15, in 2009. 

Alisdair explains: “Callum was just 15 and he was unsullied by the pressures of adult life, didn’t have a family of his own or a business to worry about  – he didn’t have a job to lose or mortgage rates or loans to worry about. 

“But that’s the thing with mental health and suicide – it doesn’t discriminate. No matter who you are, nobody is immune to this.” 

Alisdair added the reasons people find themselves on the edge are completely bespoke and so there is no “one size fits all” solution to overcoming mental health challenges. 

He believes it is important to start conversations and highlight the different approaches to improving mental health amongst people from a young age, to help arm young people with a greater understanding and the tools to help them overcome the inevitable storms they may face on the journey through life. 

“The important thing is to talk about the fact we all have worries and fears,” he says. 

“I’m not professing to have all the answers – nobody does – but what I would like to get across to these kids joining us on the walk and their peers is that however dark your mind gets and however helpless your situation may feel, give yourself time. 

“If my Callum was on a cloud now, he might be able to see that whatever he was worried about that day would have passed and he could still be here now with us. 

Alisdair adds that we teach students about geography, physics, maths and science, but we should also be teaching them about mental health – and this was the idea of the walk. 

“There is another element we should be teaching which is a bit intangible, which is fortitude,” he says. 

“These college kids are about to set sail on their journey into adulthood and we need to teach them that they will enevitably meet with storms in their life and experience panic and the feeling their ship is sinking. This is part of life and we need to recognise this is normal. 

“It’s so important to get people talking and it’s important to teach our young people about this intangible thing that’s not on the syllabus.” 

He added: “We need people to be reassuring them that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes and they have survived every bad day and will survive this one too – and better things will be just around the corner.” 

The walks across the North East are set to take place on the morning of Wednesday March 13, as youngsters walk into the sunrise to tie in with University Mental Health Day on Thursday 14 March. 

The walks also tie in with the BRIT Challenge, set up by the British Inspiration Trust, which exists to support and improve the mental health, fitness, and wellbeing, of young adults, students, and staff, throughout the UK. 

The 2024 BRIT Challenge started on 24th January 2024 and finishes on March 24th. It has encouraged colleges and universities up and down the country to bring their communities together during this time to raise positive awareness of mental health and suicide prevention. 

Alisdair says he would like to see the walks become an annual event nationwide. 

“I would like every college in the country to get involved with their own walk into the light events,” he said.  

“The statistics about suicide in young people are frightening – it’s horrendous and totally avoidable. 

“The message is a simple one. If you find yourself feeling like you can’t go on, remember to give yourself time.” 

Walkers are welcome to make voluntary donations or collect sponsorship, which will be passed onto The Headlight Project on Teesside. 

However, Alisdair is keen to point out it’s “more about the message than the money”. 

“These events are free and although donations to the Headlight Project will be welcome, we are just walking and getting the message across that it’s okay to talk about mental health,” he says.  

“The big message is that if you find yourself in that fog, you can let it rise and let it pass.  

“You might not be able to make it clear any faster, but it will pass. 

“It would be great if, during the walk, people could talk about moments they have had like that and encourage people to share this positive message that bad times, thoughts and experiences do pass.” 

Students from across Teesside will gather on Wednesday 13 March, at Tees Barrage Car Park, near the white water and canoe centre, from 6am, and begin walking to Middlesbrough College. 

Click here to see the route.

Nine students and 34 staff from Middlesbrough College will be taking part in the event.  

Middlesbrough College principal Zoe Lewis said: “We hope that this event will help to raise awareness of the importance of talking about mental well-being and supporting young people as they make their way through life.” 

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