A Darlington woman has committed to running up to 5km every evening in an effort to promote mental health awareness after she tragically lost a friend to suicide.

Nikki Gaynor, 49, from Darlington, is nearing day 50 of her 2024 goal to run at least 5km each evening whilst using her social media presence to spread suicide prevention.

Nikki, who works as a postwoman, is a lead mental health ambassador for Royal Mail and often leaves kindness cards with positive affirmations alongside their mail.

The Northern Echo: Nikki Gaynor before one of her runs.Nikki Gaynor before one of her runs. (Image: NIKKI GAYNOR)

Each day when she takes on her run she also takes a selfie and posts it on social media alongside a positive quote, as she says she simply wants to “make a difference”.

Nikki said: “I lost someone through suicide, and I was given support by the If U Care Share foundation which is based in Chester-le-Street which helped me realise that it was not my fault.

“But, when I did some research, I found that the North East has the highest rate of suicide in the whole of the UK.”

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics revealed that the North East had 12.8 suicide deaths per 100,000 people, which prompted Nikki to take action.

She said: “One suicide on average affects 135 people. When I found all of this out, I immediately realised that I had to do something.

“Kindness costs nothing. I wanted to raise this awareness that it is okay not to be okay.”

This is not Nikki’s first year of taking on challenges. In 2022 she aimed to do 10m steps in one year and ended up logging 25m. In 2023, she completed 300 squats a day.

Nikki went on to explain that it “just escalated from there”.

She added: “I want to get out there and get the message out to people as best as I can. The NHS at the minute is so stressed and charities like If U Care Share are so needed.

“I do have a charity page where people can donate but it is more about awareness. It often feels like a taboo because people just don’t talk about it.

“If I can save one person then I’ve made a difference. I would never want someone to take their own life because they had no other choice.”

The Northern Echo: MP Peter Gibson joins Nikki and friends for a run.MP Peter Gibson joins Nikki and friends for a run. (Image: NIKKI GAYNOR)

Darlington MP Peter Gibson took part in one of Nikki's runs on February 15, and has heralded her as a “community champion” for her campaigning.


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He said: “Nikki is an absolute trooper and a total breath of fresh air. We would have a much better society if more people were like her.

“It was a delight to meet up with her again for the run and I thoroughly enjoyed my time out. I’m pleased to help and support her campaign and wish her well for the future.”

If you are in need of support:

  • Samaritans are available, day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.
  • If U Care Share on 0191 387 5661 or text IUCS to 85258.
  • SANE on 07984 967 708, Calm on 0800 58 58 58.
  • Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust crisis line 0800 0516 171.