When Izzy decided to raise money for CALM in memory of her brother Harrison, she couldn’t have imagined how many donations would tot up in the months to come. We caught up with her to hear how she, along with family and friends, pulled together to raise almost £24,000 to support our services and why she’s campaigning for better wellbeing support for students.
Studying at Manchester Metropolitan University, Harrison was on placement when he took his own life. Realising how isolating university placements could be, Izzy set out to find ways she could ensure students felt supported, starting by raising money for CALM and helping us to be there no matter what.
25 year old Izzy is a force to be reckoned with – it’s only 11 in the morning and she’s already spoken to numerous universities about their mental wellbeing policies and hosted a talk to the team at CALM. Chatting to us on the phone, she recounts her story:
“I lost my brother to suicide on the seventh of December 2020. He was 23 and really passionate about mental health himself. Last Mental Health Awareness Day, he posted on Instagram, saying ‘I find this day super difficult because it brings up a lot of things, but it’s really important to talk’. He shared his number and said his DMs were open. He was so open about talking about other people’s mental wellbeing, but he didn’t talk about his own that much.
“What happened left a massive hole in all of our lives, but it made me realise that people aren’t always able to talk in moments of crisis because they don’t know where to turn to. We wanted to raise money for CALM because the webchat is so beneficial for people who don’t feel they can talk face-to-face or on the phone. We just wanted to hopefully prevent one other person from feeling like Harrison did.”
Despite what she was going through, Izzy channelled her grief into fundraising, setting up a Just Giving page and setting the target at £1,000. Struck by the sad news, friends, family and even some celebs began to share and donate to CALM and Izzy very quickly passed the target she’d set. Her post inspired others to raise money too, and the total continued to rise:
“Within 24 hours we’d already raised £5,000. My mum’s partner ran a marathon for my brother and various people joined in for parts of the run. It was only two or three weeks after he’d passed away, so it was a very emotional day. Three of Harrison’s friends ran a marathon and another ran 89 miles. He’d attempted 100 miles, but had to stop because his blisters were so bad.
“Another friend produced t.shirts and all the profits went to CALM, someone sold meat and cheese hampers, people have sold personal items, we’ve had corporate donations and there’s been a tribute for Harrison in the pub he used to work at. There was also a poem created by his friend about men’s mental health which someone choreographed. It was filmed by a professional videographer and shared to raise money.”
Izzy’s Just Giving page is still making waves and has raised enough to answer almost 3,000 helpline calls, something that still hasn’t sunk in:
“I never expected this in a million years. The money has just climbed and it’s been so lovely to see what people have been willing to do and put themselves through to raise awareness. It’s an amount I just couldn’t ever comprehend – it’s like a house deposit!”
While the loss of Harrison has left an indelible mark on Izzy and her family, she’s determined to look to the future, hopeful she can make a difference for other students by campaigning for better mental wellbeing support in universities. Izzy is showing no signs of slowing down her efforts, recently sharing a video call with Keir Starmer to talk university policies:
“I worked with Manchester Metropolitan University after Harrison died and they changed their policy on unnotified absences for placements. They’ve also done a lot in terms of student check-ins, providing wellbeing support and signposting students to wellbeing services effectively.
“Off the back of that, I’ve contacted every university across the country and I’m creating an insert alongside the Suicide Safer Universities framework which is to help guide universities on how to effectively support the well-being of their placement students. We want to make sure students still feel part of the university even when on placement because they’re often more vulnerable due to reduced check-ins and a lack of support. I would ideally like to create some legislation which would make sure universities are adhering to frameworks. It’s a very lengthy campaign but I feel like I’m getting somewhere.”
Realising the importance of support, especially for students who may be away from home, Izzy believes the CALM webchat service can be invaluable in helping people to voice their struggles, something which Harrison found difficult:
“Charities like CALM provide a safe space where people can talk. I know from speaking with university students that they often don’t feel they can contact their university wellbeing services because they feel there’s a stigma attached to it and they worry it could go against them in terms of their studies. You guys are opening up the floor and the dialogue for people to talk about their experience and realise they’re not the only ones going through it.
“The webchat service allows people to write what they’re feeling when they can’t express it vocally. I think Gen Z are much more likely to use a webchat because technology is what they’re used to and it’s providing a platform to let people get things off their chest.”
Sadly, Izzy’s story isn’t unique, but that’s why we’re continuing to raise awareness for mental wellbeing, something our fundraisers play a huge part in helping us to do. The team at CALM have been blown away by the amount Izzy and her loved ones have managed to raise for our life-saving services.
If you, or someone you know is struggling, CALM’s helpline and webchat is open every day from 5pm until midnight. It’s free, confidential and run by trained professionals who will lend a listening ear and work out next steps with you.
Losing someone by suicide can be incredibly difficult and isolating, but you’re not alone. You can find resources on support after suicide here.
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