A 36-year-old man from Stafford has completed his run in memory of his friend from Merthyr Tydfil who took his own life on the 18th of October 2022.

Philip Wilkes started his run from his home in Stafford, through Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Hay-On-Wye, Brecon and finally to Merthyr Tydfil football club.

"My best friend Ceri Collins took his own life. After hearing the news, I was really struggling to come to terms with it," Philip said. "I've always used running as a coping mechanism when I'm stressed and sad. During the runs I have music on a lot. Ceri was always in bands which is how we met. Ceri had moved from Merthyr Tydfil up to the Midlands to be in a band from Cannock where I'm from. I was always at the local gigs, so inevitably, we started talking and instantly became close. Over the years, we spent a lot of time together and considered each other to be brothers."

Philip would listen to Ceri's music on his runs, remembering the good times they shared together. "It's at that point I thought 'I need to do something to help people in Ceri's situation find help'. As running was helping keep me in a good place, I wanted to do something that would not only honour Ceri but keep me from that place as well as raise awareness. Eventually, I decided I would run from my house in Stafford to Ceri's home town Merthyr Tydfil. We changed the route, so it covered 125 miles to represent the stat that 125 a day in the UK take their own life."

He chose to raise funds and awareness for CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably, which is leading a movement against suicide. According to the Samaritans, men are more likely to take their own lives, while the ONS reports that 74% of registered deaths in 2021 were men.

"CALM was the perfect charity to raise money for as it fits perfectly with our mission to help people struggling," Philip says.

Philip chose to raise funds and awareness for CALM
Philip chose to raise funds and awareness for CALM (Philip Wilkes)

The run was gruelling, in all weather, but the support along the way was appreciated by Philip, who was accompanied by two cars advertising his campaign. "I could not believe the response from people on the run. From people passing money out of the car window to people driving miles to track us down to hand us envelopes with hundreds of pounds in them. The money is still coming in on our JustGiving page, which is amazing. I could not have achieved what I have without my amazing family who supported me from the first step, following me on the roads to keep me safe and raise awareness back home. It was a real team effort."

With the run completed, Philip is taking some time out, but he's thinking ahead to other things he can do to continue to raise awareness. "After seeing the impact this has had, I have other ideas to take on in the future, but not too soon."

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and the Republic of Ireland) or contact other sources of support, such as those listed on the NHS Help for suicidal thoughts webpage. Support is available around the clock, every day of the year, providing a safe place for you, whoever you are and however you are feeling.

The run ended in Merthyr Tydfil, where Ceri was originally from
The run ended in Merthyr Tydfil, where Ceri was originally from (Philip Wilkes)