From the Bognor Regis beach where he tried to kill himself, Paul Shepherd is to walk an emotional 100 kilometres to London to celebrate the 40th birthday he so nearly didn’t live to see.
In London, Paul will be met at the London Eye by representatives from the male suicide prevention charity CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably.
CALM got Paul back on his feet – literally. Paul now acts as CALM’s 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 is setting out 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.
You can contribute to the Paul’s fundraising on https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/someonecares1
“I am hoping to raise awareness of that feeling of being on your own and that you don’t have to be,” Paul says.
“In the two and a half years since I tried to kill myself, I have realised that there are just so many people who care – and that we should shout about the fact.
“And the fact that there is always somebody who cares makes all the difference. We are not isolated. We really can turn around and tell someone we are feeling suicidal without it being a taboo word. It is about feeling OK to talk about that darkness.”
Paul is one of the people featured in Observer arts editor Phil Hewitt’s best-selling new book Outrunning The Demons (available here)
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 now wants to say thanks in the biggest most public way and raise as much money as possible.
On Thursday, July 25, he will set out from the beach on which he nearly killed himself to walk 100k (65 miles) to the London Eye.
The significance of the timing is that he will arrive on his 40th birthday…. a birthday he so very nearly didn’t live to see.
“I am OK,” Paul says. “I would never say I am 100 per cent happy.
“I still have my days. I still have feelings but it is about understanding that it is OK to have those feelings. We are human.
“It is all about connecting with people. These days as a society we are so disconnected from each other, in this digital era. You are on a train or a bus or in the high street. Everybody is on their phones. Nobody is engaged with each other. It’s depressing. We have lost that connection with each other.”
Paul is hoping his walk will encourage people to think about the links between us that make us human.
Phil Hewitt is delighted to join Paul on his big walk: “I interviewed Paul for Outrunning The Demons and am in awe of his courage and decency and openness. I wrote the book partly as a response to being stabbed in South Africa a couple of years ago and knowing just how hard I found it to cope with the trauma of being abandoned on a pavement in a pool of my own blood thinking I was just about to breathe my last.
“I find Paul’s story of strength utterly inspirational, his ability to come back from a very, very dark place but also his realism, his acknowledgement that it will never be easy, that life is inevitably always going to be different after something awful happens to us, that we will always be a work in progress… but the fact is that with love and support – and running – we can find a way through.
“The walk is going to be an amazing experience.”
Contact CALM here
Contact the Samaritans: Call 116 123 for free