University professor in walking challenge to raise awareness of suicide impact

A University of Aberdeen academic is putting his best foot forward in a walking challenge from Land's End to John O'Groats, to raise awareness of the impact of suicide on families following the death of his son.

Professor John Gibson has set off from Land’s End alongside his wife Isobel and family friend John Gallacher with a target of raising £250,000 for the couple’s charity, the Canmore Trust (SC051511).

The charity was established following their son Cameron’s death by suicide in 2019 and aims to promote and develop the concept of ‘safe spaces’ in suicide prevention. These can be found inside people’s minds, workplaces, homes, and classrooms, ensuring that these are available to anyone affected by suicidal distress. 

As well as raising funds for the Canmore Trust, the challenge intends to open up a national conversation about suicide and suicide prevention, with the hashtag #onemanwalkingamilliontalking being used to encourage conversation as well as providing updates on their journey.

Their challenge is expected to take until the end of August, with the first stage of their journey seeing them tackle the South West Coastal path. From there they will travel along the Welsh border, into the Peak District, and then through The Pennines before reaching Scotland. A special ‘meet and greet’ event is planned in Edinburgh on Saturday 6 August, giving an opportunity for supporters to come together with the walking team for a picnic and celebration. The team plans to reach John O’Groats on Saturday, 27 August.

John retired from his post as Director at the University’s Institute of Dentistry shortly after Cameron’s death, and staff and students from the Institute will be involved in his venture with events aimed at raising donations for the charity, including joining the couple on a stage of their walk.

Commenting on the challenge, John said: "It means a huge amount to Isobel and I to be undertaking this 1,200-mile adventure – which has been in the planning for over a year now but was frequently thwarted by Covid and lockdowns. 

“Walking in the great outdoors has been a significant part of trying to recover from Cameron's death in October 2019, and that’s why we are now combining walking with opening up a national conversation about suicide and suicide prevention.

“We have already had some very meaningful conversations with many people as we walk - so many families, communities and workplaces have been affected by suicide and opening up the conversation and bringing suicide into the light is part of Cameron's legacy." 

Anyone interested in joining John and Isobel on their walk and raising sponsorship for The Canmore Trust can visit the Canmore Trust’s website or John’s JustGiving page where donations can also be made.