'I hope I can save other families from this devastating loss' - Ashley, 34, raises awareness of mental health and suicide in memory of sister Ellen
A grieving brother who lost his sister to suicide hopes to “open the conversation about mental health” by embarking on a ten-month fundraising mission in aid of city charity Leeds Mind.
Ashley Scott’s sister Ellen was a student at Leeds Beckett University when she took her own life in June 2017 aged just 23.
An inquest into her death heard Ellen, a keen blogger, suffered from mood swings and depression and had been prescribed anti-depressants after fearing she would lose custody of her three-year-old son.
Four years on, Ashley, 34, said it “doesn’t get any easier” to cope with losing his sister but he now hopes to channel his grief into something positive through his awareness-raising Mind over Matter challenge in aid of mental health charity Leeds Mind.
The challenge involves him completing ten impressive feats by the end of December 2021 - a mix of physical challenges, including taking on the Total Warrior obstacle course and a 100-mile run, as well as mental challenges such as writing and performing a song and walking over hot coals.
Dad-of-one Ashley, known as Ash, who lives in Keighley, said he wants to help normalise talking about mental health and suicide in Ellen’s memory.
“Not a single day has gone by where I don’t think about how different my life would be if she had known the options that were available to her, or the lengths that I would have gone to in saving her from her own thoughts had I fully understood her intentions.
“I hope that by opening up the conversation about mental health and suicide, I can help save other families from ever having to experience the type of devastating loss that my own family has.”
He said: “She was an avid campaigner for mental health. She had a blog and talked about struggling with mental health and was really open about it.
“She did struggle for some time before she eventually managed to take her own life.
“She was actually receiving the support, I think the problem was it was all behind closed doors."
Ash admits talking about mental health issues were a struggle for him back then.
“That fear of not knowing what to say and that fear of bringing it up because you’re bringing up bad feelings and emotions.
“But that is actually quite powerful stuff in terms of recovery - I just didn’t understand that at the time.
“I thought Ellen was the happiest I had ever seen her. She had just got engaged, she was in love, she had a young son who she thought the world of - and just trying to imagine leaving them behind, I can’t even put myself in that mindset.”
Ash, who said he has had his own mental health battles since his sister’s suicide, said: “I have tried to change myself and be really open in my own posts around this. It can be scary to talk about some of this stuff but it’s completely worthwhile.”
Ash has already completed his first challenge called ‘Mind if I eat that?’ - in which friends and family pledged to remove food stuff from his diet - and raised £1,700, a great start towards his target of raising £5,000 for Leeds Mind.
And next up is his 100-mile run - an impressive feat considering he only started running two months ago but has already managed to run a marathon in that time.
But while raising money is important to him, simply getting people talking about “uncomfortable” or “taboo” subjects is what matters most.
“It’s about raising awareness and opening up that conversation and normalising the conversation.
“When you don’t feel yourself and you don’t feel your best and you feel you need support - just making sure people understand that that is absolutely fine.
“If we’re not feeling great, we should be talking about all of that stuff - whether that’s with people who understand or are good listeners or professional help. It’s really good to get some of that stuff off your chest.”
This weeks marks Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from May 10 until May 16 and aims to push the topic to the top of the agenda - at a time when many will be struggling.
The Yorkshire Evening Post has continued to shine a light on the issue of mental health through our #SpeakYourMind campaign which was first launched in 2017.
Ash said: “My challenges are about showing the world that facing things that you find scary, difficult or uncomfortable can be a positive thing.
“I hope this helps break down the stigma surrounding talking about suicide and mental health, which feels especially important after the difficult time we’ve all experienced during the pandemic."
He added: “She would be right with me, I’m absolutely certain of that. Ellen did a fantastic job of raising awareness around mental health herself. That is my inspiration - thinking about what my sister was trying to raise awareness of and carrying that on in some way.”
To follow Ash’s progress, visit his Facebook or Instagram @mind.over.matter.challenge.
To donate, visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Smellabelle*For confidential support and advice, phone Samaritans Leeds on 116 123 (free) or 0113 245 6789 (local call charges apply)