A planning consultant at Harris Lamb has pledged to raise awareness of mental health issues and funds for charities supporting those battling them following the suicide of a close friend.

Simon Hawley has joined forces with three other friends to each run 500 miles over the course of a year in the memory of his former University housemate Barry Davies, who took his own life last month.

While Barry suffered from depression for as long as Simon knew him, neither he nor his friends saw his death coming, and are determined to help support charities who help others battling depression to try and prevent further tragic losses.

Simon said: “Barry was a really nice guy; he had time for everyone. When we left university he wasn’t sure what career path he wanted to follow, but that he wanted to help people. He trained as a radiographer for the NHS and has done this ever since.

“He always had up and down periods, although he was very good at hiding how he felt. When the UK went into lockdown earlier this year, a group of us set up a virtual pub night every Friday night to keep all of our spirits up- and none of us ever got on inkling of what was to happen.

“At the end of August, Barry evidently decided that he had had enough, and  spent a couple of days packing up his house and writing letters to be people about what he would like to happen to his belongings, and when all his affairs were in order he committed suicide,” he said.

Devasted, Simon and his friends have pledged to work together to raise awareness around mental health, raising money for charity in Barry’s name.

“Mental health issues have had a lot more publicity and an increased profile in the past couple of years, but the fact that Barry did not confide in us about just how low he had become, that he felt this was the only way out, means that to us, that it needs to be talked about so much more,” said Simon.

“At the beginning of this year, Barry had set himself a challenge to run 500 miles in 2020, and we all thought it would be a tribute to him to take on that goal. So, four of us – myself, Barry’s girlfriend Katy Back and two other University mates Graeme Davison and Simon Hammonds – plan to achieve that starting on his birthday later this month.

Barry (left) with Simon Hammonds and Simon Hawley, both of whom will be running to raise awareness and funds in Barry’s memory.

“While we are all runners, we need to average 10 miles a week, including in the winter months when it can be hard to stay motivated, but we’re determined to each notch up our 500 miles in his memory, raising money for Wolfwood, a charity operated by Barry’s sister dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating abandoned animals which was very close to his heart, and Give Us A Shout, a text messaging service providing round-the-clock support across the UK with those struggling with mental health concerns.

“We’re also encouraging everyone to talk about depression more. There is still too much of a stigma with this, where people conceal how low they are, and ultimately their minds go to a place too dark to cope with. This year has taken a terrible toll on so many people, and we know we’re not the only people who have lost someone we love to depression. Anything we can do to save someone else from taking their life can only be a good thing, and we hope supporters will donate to our cause, but more importantly, look out for others and talk to them when they don’t seem to be entirely themselves,” he said.

To support Simon and his friends in their quest, visit the dedicated fundraising page here.