Friends of Leeds man who took his own life launch 'dog walk and talk' events in his memory

A series of 'dog walk and talk' events have been launched in memory of a Leeds man who took his own life.

Monday, 15th November 2021, 4:45 am

Property entrepreneur Tom Mansell, 37, died in December 2020 after a battle with depression.

Now Tom's friends are raising money for mental health charities in his memory, as well as creating a safe space for people to talk about mental health struggles.

Danny Silk, a personal trainer who met Tom in his early twenties, runs Leeds LGBT+ Dog Walkers - a support group organised by the LGBT+ Sport Fringe Festival.

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Danny Silk, pictured on one of his dog walks in Meanwood Park, with his dogs Cercei and Elsa, and fellow walkers.

Three dog walks out of its six-week programme have been assigned as 'walk and talk' events, raising money for LGBTQ+ mental health charity MindOut.

“Tom was a really upbeat, positive, smiling person," Danny, 39, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

"He had such a tight circle of friends and it has hit all of them really hard."

Tom's mum, Carol, opened up about the family's heartbreak at the first event in Tom's memory on Saturday November 6.

Representatives from Leeds Mind spoke about their services - and Danny provided contact details for those who needed professional support.

Danny said: "Suicide prevention and mental health are such important matters for people in and out of the LGBT community.

"Everyone was sharing stories about what they’re going through. It was silent and you could hear a pin drop for each of the stories.

“But it was a really positive experience. Everybody walked away saying it helped them to know they’re not alone.”

After the success of the first event, the group held a second 'dog walk and talk' event at Meanwood Park on Saturday and they will meet again at Middleton Park later this month.

There are plans for a special event to honour the first anniversary of Tom's death.

While the events are open to everybody, Danny said it was particularly important to carve out a safe space for people in the LGBTQ+ community to speak about their mental health struggles.

“It’s still difficult for people in the LGTBQ community to be themselves," he added.

"Even the fact that people feel the need to come out, but for people in the straight community that’s not an issue.

“From the moment you decide you’re part of the community, or you want to be a part of it, you’ve then got the pressure of coming out - worrying how people will react.

“That’s the initial start of the troubles that people have to go through. There’s a lot of prejudice still out there and people don’t like what they don’t understand.”

You can join Leeds LGBT+ Dog Walkers here.

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