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Man walking from Wales to Amsterdam in memory of his two friends

Dan is currently on day five of his 400km walk, somewhere between Swindon and Oxford.

Credit: Leonie Roberts Photography

Dan Simms is on day five of his long walk from Wales to Amsterdam in memory of two friends who have taken their own lives.

He’s walking to break the stigma and build the conversation around mental health and suicide prevention.

Dan’s on his way to Oxford right now.

“On day one, I twisted my left knee and hyper extended it by walking through boggy land and flooding – because of all the wet weather we’ve been having. At first, I didn’t think anything of it, and then an hour later it started hurting. Ever since then, I’ve been limping, which has caused my right leg to take more pressure.

“It means that this walk is going to take a little longer than planned, but mental illness is a lonely and painful experience. This walk symbolises that cold, lonely, dark journey through a mental health crisis. Nothing will stop me, and I will fight on.”

There were 5,284 suicides in England in 2022 – 3,909 of those were male.

With suicide rates soaring in the UK, and the bulk of those being male, there’s never been a better time to talk about men’s mental health and suicide prevention, and to encourage men to talk about their problems and challenges.

Credit: Leonie Roberts Photography

“After suffering myself for years with multiple personal problems, having family and friends suffering, and losing two close friends to suicide, I decided it was time to step up.

“There are so many men out there who are suffering and confused and in pain. I want to raise awareness through this walk about how fragile men’s mental health can be: how important it is to speak up, to seek support, and for men to help each other.”

As well as raising funds for the families of his friends Tom and Rory, Dan will be donating a portion to the men’s mental health support organisation, Andy’s Man Club.

Andy’s Man Club takes its name from Andrew Roberts, a man who sadly took his own life aged 23 in early 2016. Andy’s family had no inkling that he was suffering or struggling to the extent that he would do this, and as a result looked deeper into male suicide and men’s mental health. They soon discovered that male suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50, with male mental health surrounded by a well-ingrained cultural stigma in the UK.

The group runs welcoming, volunteer-led groups nationwide where men can speak openly about their mental health in a judgment-free, non-clinical environment.

One man who has been supported by Andy’s Man Club said: “Two years ago, this club literally saved my life. I was very unwell and had decided this world would be better off without me. How grateful I am that these guys wouldn’t let me go. They found me, they listened to me and they made me see I had people who cared. Through this group of amazing people, I have never gone back to the depths I was in that day, and I am proud to call them brothers.”

Dan said:

“The number of messages of support I have received from people who have lost friends and family to suicide, and from people encouraging me on my walk, is incredible. People telling me how important this walk is, and how much good I’m doing. I can’t thank you enough. Through this walk, I want to be a beacon of strength. No amount of pain will stop me getting it done. Helping people and raising awareness was the goal all along. It’s finally a reality.”

If you see Dan on his walk, please beep and wave, or stop and say hello and walk with him for a while.