Father celebrates life of daughter with 150-mile walk to East Sussex village to raise funds for suicide prevention charity

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A dad who lost his daughter to suicide has stressed the importance of raising awareness of mental health issues and encouraging youngsters to talk.

Libby Ralph, who had lived in Crowborough, was just 18 when she died in East Sussex in January 2019, following a long struggle with her mental health.

Her dad Graham said: “Libby was a beloved daughter, sister, and friend who touched the lives of many with her infectious spirit and kind heart. She was a keen dancer, gymnast, trampolinist, and artist who also enjoyed poetry and all things creative.

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He added: ”Libby was a beautiful, vibrant girl, passionate about gymnastics, trampolining, dance, and art, who left an indelible mark on all who knew her.”

Libby Ralph. Photo: Graham RalphLibby Ralph. Photo: Graham Ralph
Libby Ralph. Photo: Graham Ralph

The 57-year-old, who now lives in Bromley, felt the time was right, five years after she died, to do something in Libby’s memory.

He said: “Libby self-diagnosed and was aware enough to know she had a problem. She started the initial conversations and I want to raise awareness and encourage young people to have those first conversations so they can then get the interventions they need.”

Graham has organised a fundraising walk to mark the anniversary. The 150-mile Red Balloon Walk, named after Libby’s favourite song Nena’s 99 Red Balloons, is to raise awareness of teenage mental health and suicide prevention. Sussex locations include Ashdown Forest, Haywards Heath, Beachy Head, Crowborough and Eastbourne. To donate visit justgiving.com/team/libbyredballoonwalk or to get involved email Graham on [email protected].

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Graham Ralph preparing for his walk on Libby's memorial bench in Calverley Gardens. Photo: Graham RalphGraham Ralph preparing for his walk on Libby's memorial bench in Calverley Gardens. Photo: Graham Ralph
Graham Ralph preparing for his walk on Libby's memorial bench in Calverley Gardens. Photo: Graham Ralph

Libby was born in Gravesend, and spent the first three years of her life in Borough Green before moving to East Sussex.

While winning gymnastics and trampoline trophies in her teens Libby had a number of mental illnesses including Anorexia Nervosa, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder resulting in her being sectioned for almost a year at the age of 17. Less than five months after being released, Libby decided to end her life.

The walk will span eight days, starting in Gravesend on May 22 and finishing in High Hurstwood, East Sussex. Libby’s dad is doing the whole walk and will be joined in parts by loved ones, including Libby’s brothers William, 21 and Charlie, 25. The family and friends will visit Libby's grandparents home in Gravesend, the hospital she was born in, her first childhood home in Borough Green, her dad’s former home in Tunbridge Wells and her memorial bench in Calverley Gardens. It will take in Ashdown Forest, where her father used to read Winnie the Pooh stories to Libby; Chalkhill Hospital, in Haywards Heath where Libby was an inpatient and go via Beachy Head to Brighton Marina where Graham will visit, for the first time, the place Libby took her own life. The walk will then pass the three homes she lived in in Crowborough and on day four will cover Eastbourne and Haywards Heath. It will finish with a service at her burial site in High Hurstwood.

Funds raised will go towards helping the work of PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide charity and the Rockinghorse Children’s Charity, and has the support of the Charity for Civil Servants.

Graham, a senior civil servant in the Home Office, said: “By shining a light on these critical issues we hope to prevent other families from experiencing similar heartbreak.”

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