A FATHER-OF-TWO young boys is planning a solo march of 250 miles from York to Hastings in four-stone of armour to combat suicide.

In just one month since announcing the “1066 Battle Walk” Lewis Kirkbride, from Durham, has raised £1,600 towards his goal of £10,660 for mental health peer support organisation ManHealth.

He has also received several packages of medieval clothing and equipment as makers across the UK and Europe pull together in support of the epic challenge.

With Mental Health Awareness Week having started on Monday, Mr Kirkbride feels the kindness people are showing is coming at a crucial time for his cause, he said: “I hope my walk and all the support it’s getting inspires men to get talking, especially after so many of us have been isolated by coronavirus.

“Men still aren’t asking for help when they need to, and with job losses seeming likely and mental health services and communities around us under strain, things could get a lot worse in 2020 – suicide was already the biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK.”

“I want to show that people are willing to listen. Nobody needs to suffer in silence – people looked at me and saw a healthy young man with a job, a home and a beautiful family but inside I was losing my own battle with depression and anxiety. My hobbies in medieval combat gave me a bit of a lifeline but I wish I’d got talking about my mental health much sooner.

"ManHealth would have been a huge help if I’d known about them at the time, so I hope £10,660 will help them reach a lot more men.”

ManHealth offers free peer support sessions around the North-East, in the hopes of making a real difference to the lives of men.

Mr Kirkbride has decided to base the September challenge on the events of the Battle of Hastings, he said: “King Harold had to defend his kingdom by first defeating a Viking army near York on September 25, then marching south in 20 days to face the Norman invaders at the south coast on October 14. So that’s roughly what I’m doing. Like the battles of 1066, mental health problems can invade your life and attack from all sides. You don’t know where the next blow is going to land, and winning one battle isn’t the end of the war – tomorrow’s another day, another battle. We do our best to fight, but putting on a brave face again and again takes a lot of energy – a bit like heavy armour weighing down on our shoulders every step of the way.

“Hopefully my March will have a happier ending than Harold’s, and even though it’ll be a solo journey with lots of ups and downs I’m looking forward to talking to lots of kind and helpful people along the way. I will need help at each stop on my route, and a bit of company will be very welcome.

“I’m absolutely blown away by all the donations, social media shares and kit that has been made for my challenge. It all proves that we all have our struggles, but if you’re willing to talk, there’s always someone kind willing to listen and to help.”

To support the cause donate at justgiving.com/crowdfunding/1066battlewalk?utm_id=2&utm_term=akWRaaY4M