Shaun Armstrong was a man well-liked by many, loved by hundreds, and touched the lives of people worldwide.
To say his existence made the world a better place would be an understatement to all those who knew Shaun. He inspired students across the globe in his role as a teacher and coach, he brought genuine happiness to his friends and family in the many countries he travelled, and he lit up every room he walked into with his charisma and infectious laughter. It was well-known that Shaun looked for any excuse to be around people, whether that be existing friends, or strangers who he’d soon invite into his world with open arms.
“Shaun loved people.” his brother Matthew says. “He had loads and loads of friends, I honestly don’t know anyone who knew as many people as him. He liked to travel and wherever he went he made new friends, he just found it so easy.
“He was that person, as soon as he entered the room, you knew he was there. He loved to sing – badly – and whenever he’d walk into a room he’d be singing loudly, usually a football song that he’d be chanting.
“He was just infectious. You wouldn’t meet a nicer person that him.”
After graduating from university with a degree in Sociology, Shaun’s passion for people and inspiring others led him to complete his teaching qualifications. Following this, Shaun found his true calling and lived a rewarding career as a teacher to children between the ages of five and 11. It was a job his family say he loved, and one that enabled him to positively impact the lives of others.
Running and football also played a significant role in Shaun’s life, and his enthusiasm for activity was both a blessing and a (positive) curse to those around him. He’d eagerly accompany his friends as they undertook their latest fitness drive, and even try to encourage those who were less enthusiastic about fitness to get out into the fresh air for a casual session of hill sprints.
“He had this spirit which just made you want to do things,” says Matthew.
“He’d turn up at my house in his running gear and say ‘right, we’re going for a run’, and next thing I knew, me and my wife Charlotte would be running up and down the hills in our street. People must have thought we were off our heads. He just made you want to do things; there was something about him.”
Above running, teaching, football – particularly Manchester United – and a social event, Shaun’s biggest passion was life. He brought it everywhere he went, and to everyone around him, he was the embodiment of it. His eagerness to make new friends, meet new faces and inspire young people took him across the globe, from Cambodia and Canada to the US and the UAE, and everywhere he went he secured a new community of people who would all agree their lives where better having met Shaun Armstrong.
“Shaun was a free spirit. He travelled all over and wherever he went everyone loved him,” says Shaun’s mum Maggie. “The love felt for Shaun was truly unique. He will always be remembered for having the kindest heart, being the friendliest guy, having the most infectious laugh and the biggest smile that would light up anyone’s heart. We never saw a day where he wasn’t laughing and smiling, not a single day. He truly was one of a kind and your life was better for having him in it.”
In January 2022, the week before his 39th birthday, Shaun took his own life.
In the week leading up to his death, Shaun revealed to his family and many friends the struggles he had faced with mental health. The revelation came as a shock as Shaun had always been the seemingly optimistic and spirited person to everyone he knew.
However, with his revelation he instigated open conversation, and in his final week, Shaun inspired many of his friends and family to talk about their own mental health and struggles. He sparked a conversation that was far-reaching across all of his social groups; one that continues to be openly discussed today.
His death came as a life-changing shock to hundreds, and this was demonstrated by the attendance at his funeral. People from across the world flew in for the occasion, some arriving days before, others making their way to the funeral directly from the airport. Hundreds of people made sure they were present say goodbye to the man who “made their lives better”.
Shaun’s 39th birthday fell just six days after his death, but despite the grief and loss of his family, they wanted to ensure they celebrated him as they had intended to. As a family, they decided to complete a walk which conjoined the homes of Maggie and John, Matthew and wife Charlotte, and ending the walk at Shaun’s house. Looking out of the window on the day of the organised walk, the families were met with the faces of hundreds of people who turned up to pay tribute to Shaun.
Together, Shaun’s community walked, sharing stories of the popular social butterfly and laughing at the endless anecdotes involving him. His family learned of the extent of Shaun’s impact on people from all walks of life and they were able to take some comfort in seeing the positive footprint their loved one had left on the hearts of hundreds.
“He was a truly nice, kind human being, one of the best there was,” Shaun’s dad John adds. “There are so many things we’ve heard since he passed away that we just didn’t know about; while he was outgoing and loud, he also had the other side to him which was private. We’ve heard so, so many stories of all the good things he had done and all the people he had influenced as he’d gone about his life that we just had no idea about.”
Unbeknown to them all at that time, the event would in fact act as a warmup for Shaun’s 40th birthday the following year. Taking onus of organising an event that would honour Shaun’s memory in a grand fashion, Shaun’s friend Matthew “Frank” Evans – who would meet with Shaun twice a week for a walk and talk – invited a few friends and the family to join him for a 40km walk in honour of Shaun. As a “die-hard United fan”, it was only fitting that they would centre the walk around one of Shaun’s many loves, so the route saw the group walk from Oldham’s Boundary Park to Old Trafford and back again.
What started off as a small event with family and a couple of friends, grew to a group of around 200 people who arrived at the meeting point on the morning of 21 January 2023. People travelled from as far as Suffolk and London to join the event, and for those who couldn’t attend due to location, similar 40km events were also held in New Zealand, Cambodia and Dubai, all with the shared purpose of celebrating Shaun’s 40th birthday.
Through the combined efforts of his family and many friends across the world, over £32,000 has been raised for PAPYRUS in Shaun’s name since his passing. From individual challenges and donations, to the community walks and events, many who knew Shaun have made it their mission to raise awareness of the importance of talking about suicide. Collectively, they continue to keep Shaun’s memory alive by encouraging conversations around mental health and normalising opening up when they’re struggling.
His loss is a tragedy to many, and his absence will leave an emptiness in the lives of all who had the privilege of meeting him, but through the money and awareness raised in his name, even in death, Shaun Armstrong’s legacy will continue his commitment to positively changing the lives of as many people as possible.
If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide and need a safe non-judgmental space to talk. PAPYRUS is here for you. Call HOPELINE247 for free, confidential advice and support on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039 967 or email firstname.lastname@example.org from 9am to midnight every day of the year.