Father of farm vet aims to get UK talking about suicide prevention

The father of a Scottish vet who died by suicide is set to embark on a 1,200-mile walk from Land’s End to John o ‘Groats to raise money and awareness of the issue.

John Gibson was devastated by the tragic loss of his 24-year-old son Cameron, a farm vet at Clyde Veterinary Group in Lanarkshire, in October 2019.

Mammoth walk

Prof Gibson is tackling the mammoth journey to raise £ 250,000 for The Canmore Trust, a charity set up with his wife Isobel, son Malcolm and daughter Eilidh in Cameron’s memory, with the aim of preventing more suicides and supporting those affected when someone dies by suicide . The Canmore Trust is an anagram of Cameron – and implies “can do more.”

The walk, called #onemanwalkingamilliontalking, will take Prof Gibson around two-and-a-half months – averaging 20-plus miles a day – and his wife will join him for most of the stages.

Love and support

Prof Gibson is expected to complete the journey in August and plans to visit Callander, near Stirling, where the family live, so he can say a special thank you to local people for their love and support.

Emeritus professor of oral medicine at the University of Aberdeen School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, he said the walk has extra poignancy, because it was by getting out walking in the fresh air that he was able to deal with his own grief.

‘Emotional’

Prof Gibson clocked up 2,500 miles preparing for the walk and admitted to a rollercoaster of emotions as he prepared to set off today (June 13).

He said: “I’m excited about the challenge, but I wasn’t prepared for how emotional it would feel because the one person who would have loved to accompany me on this adventure is Cameron, who loved walking and the great outdoors.

“We are doing this for ‘Cammy’. We miss him dreadfully and don’t want any other family to go through this. When Cameron died, I had to walk to cope with my grief. I would walk for many hours because I struggled to stay indoors, and I also met mothers and fathers affected by suicide.

“While we need donations for what The Canmore Trust wants to achieve, the walk isn’t just about the funds. The hashtag #onemanwalkingamilliontalking means we want to open up conversations about suicide and bring it into the light.

“According to national statistics, many young people have suicidal thoughts. We want to prepare young people with suicide safety planning in case those thoughts arise, and help keep them safe. ”

Cameron Gibson.

No history

Cameron had no history of psychological distress and he left no note to explain his decision, so his death is a mystery to his family, his friends and his colleagues.

However, according to the charity Vetlife, the suicide rate among veterinary surgeons is three to four times the UK national average.

Big donation

VetPartners, the larger UK veterinary group of which Clyde Vets is a part, has donated £ 10,000 to the fund-raising and a JustGiving page has been set up at www.justgiving.com/LEJoG-John-Gibson

Cameron, who graduated from Glasgow Vet School in 2018, was a popular member of the Clyde Vets team and loved traveling, his livestock, his dog, skiing, climbing the Munros in Scotland, surfing and cycling. He was also very close to his family.

His parents have a 14-acre small holding, where Cameron proudly helped to look after their chickens, sheep and pigs.

‘Huge support’

Prof Gibson added: “Cameron never wanted to be anything apart from a vet. We arranged work experience so he could see if he might be interested in human medicine, but he said he didn’t like being inside all the time. He wanted to be outside and working as a farm vet.

“We love the veterinary profession and endorse everything they do. We’re delighted with the donation from VetPartners. The walk has generated huge support as we have been contacted by vets from all over the world, as well as people who have been affected by suicide. ”

Trust aims

The trust set up in Cameron’s memory will undertake work in the field of suicide prevention and suicide postvention. Its aims are to:

  • Work with schools, colleges and universities across the UK to raise awareness of suicide and prevent suicide.
  • Establish safe places where families affected by suicide can spend time, at no financial cost, rebuilding their lives.
  • Ensure a coordinated research program across UK universities, identifying psychological and physiological risk factors in suicide.
  • Establish a group of trained counselors, who have experienced the loss of a family member, across Scotland to work alongside police and other agencies to ensure one such counselor is immediately available to any family in crisis following suicide.
  • Work across suicide charities in Scotland to coordinate and facilitate a unified approach to fund-raising and action against suicide.

Vetlife Helpline is available 24 hours a day every day for confidential support on 0303 040 2551 or email via its website.

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