The recent graduate of the class of 2017 had landed a job working at York Chocolate Story museum in the city centre but was let go after his participation in four-day filming for an episode of the matchmaking programme Take Me Out led to him not turning up for work. In the episode, which was later broadcast in his memory with the consent of his family, Charlie expressed regret at failing to find love during his three years at the University of York.
In a statement released last month, the sabb officers announced plans to fund-raise for the Foundation. York Sport President Laura Carruthers, who was friends with Charlie, said of the campaign: “We want to raise awareness to students about mental health issues and raise money for the Foundation who do brilliant work in educating people about the stigma surrounding suicide.” Charlie had long suffered with mental health issues since he was a boy.
The three objectives the FTO team set out were: to help roll-out the ‘Chat with Charlie’ helpline initiative; to promote conversation about mental health issues on campus; and to raise money for the Foundation by collecting at club nights, by running karaoke and film events, and by culminating the campaign in a skydive. The finale to the campaign will be completed at the Hibaldstow Airfield in North Lincolnshire on Monday 28 May 2018.
Harry Watkins, Charlie’s brother who founded the Foundation, will be joining the FTO team for the finale and commented: “The sabb team have shown amazing support to the Charlie Watkins Foundation. I look forward to working closely with them to bring Chat with Char-lie up to York, providing an online platform for university students.”
To promote the campaign, the sabbatical team appeared on ITV Calendar News alongside Watkins on 25 April. Watkins said of the ultimate objective of the Foundation that “if one person feels safer then it’s a success.” The fundraising tar-get for the campaign is £2100 and donations can be submitted online via JustGiving as well as at the activities organised.
The University of York has come under scrutiny in recent years due to the number of students who have died by suicide. In 2016 a total of five York students tragically took their own lives sparking an investigation by the City of York Council. At an inquest into the 2017 death of 19-year- old Jordan Bilsland last month, a university spokeswoman said that £500 000 had now been invested in mental health support services for York students.
Those wishing to donate to the Charlie Watkins foundation can do so here.
Suicide is preventable. Readers affected by the issues raised can contact Samaritans on 116123, Mind on 0300 1233393, the University of York’s Nightline on 01904 323735, or the University Open Door team on 01904 324140.