South Tyneside food bank worker and community pillar prepares to set out on annual ‘Walk of Hope’

The co-founder of a South Tyneside food bank and community centre is preparing to set out on a yearly walk to raise awareness around mental health struggles in the borough.

Angie Comerford, co-founder of the Hebburn Helps centre, set up the annual event four years ago to commemorate the passing away of a loved one after long-running mental health struggles.

It has been nine years since Ms Comerford lost her late father, Brian Hannigan, to suicide.

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To mark the passage of time, and to support others impacted by mental health battles in the borough, she began the pilgrimage from South Tyneside to the Angel of the North – with new walkers, all impacted by mental health concerns in some way, having joined her each year since.

Angie Comerford, co-founder of the Hebburn Helps food bank, prepares to set out on her annual 'Walk of Hope' to help raise awareness around mental health issues in the borough.

The tireless social affairs campaigner and community worker told The Gazette that she was hoping to help encourage a more nuanced conversation around mental health, which she believes is still a ‘taboo’ subject among many households in the area.

"We lose so many people to suicide in the area each year,” she said.

"Mental health’s very much still a taboo subject that we struggle to just talk about. So it’s so important to get out – to get walking and talking – and to comfort each other.

"It’s all about just being there for each other. Because we’ve all been there in some way or another – we’ve all been touched by mental health issues somehow.”

35 people turned up for last year’s walk and Angie is looking forward to seeing even more new faces for 2021’s instalment.

She added: "We’re not far from Christmas now – which is a stressful time of year for people, to begin with – and we’re looking at £20 less a week in Universal Credit, energy prices going through the roof and furlough ending.

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"It’s going to be a really, really scary time for a lot of people and I’m sure that’ll have a knock-on effect in mental health terms.

"The response I’ve had on the event via Facebook has been amazing so far. Let’s see what the final numbers ends up being.”

Angie stressed that participation in the event is free, open to all and that residents could register interest via the Walk for Hope and Hebburn Helps social media pages.

The group will set off for this year’s walk from the Marsden Grotto car park at 5pm on Saturday, September 25.

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