Broadstairs signwriter Paul Cummins to shine positive light on mental health awareness with 33-mile fundraising walk

Paul will start the walk from the chatty bench installed in memory of his big brother Ben

“People with suicidal thoughts often go for walks and look for signs, a reason to live. Eventually some lose sight of what’s there.  I want this walk to show how beautiful Thanet is, for people to see the small things and to remember there is always a third option.”

Broadstairs signwriter Paul Cummins will take on a 33-mile walk along the route of the Viking Coastal Trail on June 5 to raise mental health awareness and funds for Mental Health UK.

The 22-year-old has had his own battles with depression and suffered the loss of older brothers Ben Stone and Lee Thrumble who took their lives within 18 months of each other after being unable to access the help they needed.

For Paul, he hopes the walk can shine a positive light on the subject of coping with mental health issues and give people some tools to better look after themselves.

The walk will begin at around 7am from the ‘chatty bench’ installed at Westbrook’s Sunken Gardens as a lasting legacy to dad-of-three Ben.

Ben’s Chatty Bench (Photo Rachael Stone)

The aim of the bench is to encourage people to chat, whether they are feeling low or whether they simply want to help, helping to combat isolation.

Paul, who will be joined by friends and welcomes anyone who would like to walk some or all of the route, says he hopes an appreciation of the beauty of Thanet and the coming together of community will help people find a “silver lining.”

He said: “This life’s been a tough one but it’s been a blessed one. Unfortunately we lost Ben and Lee to suicide. I’m not alone in this pain, we all know someone that struggles with mental health and we all have struggled at some time.

“As long as we can find the silver lining then we’ll realise our life is a joyous one. I was lucky to call them my brothers. I was lucky to look up to them and I’m lucky to have a support network that saved me in my dark days. We all have lows we all have highs, it’s time we all work together as one family because that’s what we are.”

Brothers Ben and Lee

He added: “I want to bring people together and raise awareness of mental health, I want them to see there is a lot of beauty and so many things to smile about.

“Over the years people tried to help me and they had good intentions but I think in the end I helped myself by appreciating family and friends and just the small, positive things.

“We get so caught up in life, we live in this almost perfect society where it seems you can get anything you want but people often just talk about the bad things with so much negativity on social media and that then affects other people.

“I suffered bad mental health after the loss of my brothers but I want to change the story, I want to make it into a beautiful sentence. I have my life and that is positive.

“The real memory for Ben and Lee is standing up, doing your best, not forgetting who you are and what matters.”

Paul has a £2,500 target for his fundraiser but says the money is secondary to the actual coming together of people.

He said: “I’m over the halfway mark and that’s great. If it reaches target, brilliant, if it goes to more then that’s even better but the money isn’t the most important thing, it is more about awareness and working together.

“It will be a day of pushing past our mental boundaries and realising we’re not alone.”

Find Paul’s fundraising page here

Get help

Anyone suffering with suicidal thoughts can contact the Samaritans on 116 123.

Alternatively the Release the Pressure campaign urges people to seek help by calling Freephone 0800 107 0160 where support is available from trained and experienced staff 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The campaign website can be found at www.releasethepressure.uk

A list of community mental health services can also be found on the Live Well website at https://livewellkent.org.uk/in-your-area/thanet/

SpeakUp CIC support group can be found online here and on facebook here

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