The family and friends of a student who took his own life say they have been completely overwhelmed by the fundraising in his memory.
Since Ben Brown’s death in April more than £31,500 has been collected, most of which is being donated to PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide.
The 22 year-old from Gloucester, who was studying engineering at Loughborough University, had been donating money to PAPYRUS and sharing information about the charity in the weeks before his death.
What followed was a remarkable show of public support and determination as around 1,000 runners, walkers and cyclists took part in a virtual 4,600 mile challenge from Loughborough to Istanbul.
Teams of people chased an original fundraising target of £4,600, soon reached £9,200, then hit £15,000 and just kept on going.
Ben’s father, Chris, says he has been astonished by the kindness shown by so many people.
“How do you thank them all? It has been amazing. People I hadn’t spoken to for 10 years put their hands in their pockets to donate money, some did ridiculous mileages as part of the challenge and many others, who we’ve never met, have been generous with their sponsorship.
“It’s not necessarily about the money, this is all about promoting better understanding of mental health care, preaching to others to open up and talk, to say when they are struggling. That is Ben’s legacy and this is a long journey for us all.”
Ben’s family say he struggled with mental health and neurodiversity. He was incredibly popular, well-travelled and always put others first. His mother, Helen Hartery-Brown, says she doesn’t want another family to feel the pain they’re suffering.
“Suicide is so final and it may be the end for the person, but it’s just the beginning of a terrible journey for their loved ones and something that we have to live with every day for the rest of our lives. I think it’s so important we discuss suicide far more openly and learn to spot the signs in others as well as ourselves,” said Helen.
Older brother, Alex, added: “Ben’s mental health was in a bad place and he chose not to seek help. We urge people to learn what the signs of poor mental health are in themselves and others. Whilst awareness has grown for mental health and suicide prevention, we need to learn how to help ourselves and others and that starts with recognising what the problems look like. This is one of the reasons we’re supporting PAPYRUS, to build awareness and understanding.”
Ben was in his final year at Loughborough University and a member of Typhoon Squadron on the Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme. His squadron had been planning a summer-long exercise through Europe to Istanbul and back. The trip was cancelled because of Covid-19.
Officer Cadet Nick Radford says Ben’s fellow students were determined to remember him and raise money by staging a virtual challenge instead.
“Originally we thought it would be just our squadron, thirty or forty of us, with a target of raising £1 for every one of the 4,600 miles.
“We had no idea what was going to happen next. Suddenly teams of runners, walkers and cyclists were all getting involved, everybody wanted to do their bit and it just went crazy.
“I think that’s really down to Ben and the impact he had on people. Anywhere we went in the country somebody would know him. He was extremely good with people, he’d be the first to say ‘how are you doing mate?’ and yes, we really miss him.”
More than £31,500 has been raised so far of which £25,000 will be donated to PAPYRUS.
Ben’s father, Chris, added: “He was very aware of the work the charity does helping young people. His very last Facebook post was about PAPYRUS, sharing what they do and trying to help others.
“The money raised will help to enable more suicide prevention work, more awareness training, support work in local communities and also widen the charity’s valuable HOPELINE247 service.
“As a family it does give us a lot of comfort and we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped us this far. The fundraising continues as does our long journey.”
If you’re aged 35 and under and experiencing thoughts of suicide, HOPELINE247 is here for you. The service, which is run by trained suicide prevention advisers, is also here for anyone concerned for a young person, as well as for professionals who need to debrief after an encounter with suicide.
Call 0800 068 4141 Text 07860039967 Email firstname.lastname@example.org