Coventry University academic set to face fears to skydive in memory of son

Harry Horton-Walsh looking at the camera and smiling while wearing a black T-shirt

Harry Horton-Walsh

Thursday 10 August 2023

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A mum is set to conquer her fears and jump out of a plane at 14,000ft in memory of her son who sadly took his own life at the age of just 19.

Harry Horton-Walsh had only recently returned from a family holiday to Croatia when he died by suicide, leaving behind his devastated family and friends.

Ever since then his mum Sarah Horton-Walsh, Coventry University’s Head of School of Marketing and Management, and other loved ones have been keeping his memory alive – and this weekend will see them do a tandem skydive at Skydive Langar near Nottingham.

As well as raising money for PAPYRUS – a charity working to prevent suicide among young people in the UK – Sarah hopes their actions can help others to have difficult conversations that could one day save their life.

The horrific phone call that began every parent's worst nightmare for Sarah and her husband Graham came back in August 2019.

I was working that week on Clearing and I had the phone call from Graham. It was completely out of the blue - we were devastated. There are some things that you can’t explain.

But the ripple is massive and we kept in touch with his friends, those from school, and they kept in touch with us. I think we were a comfort for them and them for us.

Sarah Horton-Walsh

Those connections with those who loved Harry have seen them hold events in his honour every year around his birthday in August, including a charity football match, a black-tie event, a picnic in the park and a huge party for his 21st birthday.

But this year things have taken a step up with 21 family and friends preparing to jump out of a plane on Saturday, 12 August.

Sarah admits she will be a “gibbering wreck” ahead of the skydive but will put that aside for Harry, an engineering apprentice with a bright future who was also a loving brother to his younger sister Emily and two half-siblings.

Harry was a really sociable and gregarious character. He has always been very caring and at school they were in form groups with pupils from all the school years. After he died we had so many people tell us ‘Harry helped me’ or ‘Harry supported me’.

One lad told us that Harry took him to the gym regularly and that helped him. There was also an elderly chap across the road and he told us ‘your boy was so nice and polite’ and Harry would stop and chat with him while out walking the dog for 30 minutes.

The man who ran the local shop said that Harry – as a boy at school and when he was older – would always go in and chat to him. It says something about him (Harry). We hear that people who are suffering in silence are often very helpful to others as they recognise the signs in others.

Sarah Horton-Walsh
Harry Horton-Walsh standing in the sea holding a snorkel and mask

Sometimes we try to broach the subject (of suicide) and people feel quite anxious around it – they don’t want to hurt you and hurt your feelings. I say that they can’t possibly do that as the worst possible thing has already happened. I would rather you ask me. He is still my son and it may make people aware of conversations they can have with friends and family members. It’s noticing if someone is appearing distracted and in any small way that small interaction or moment could stop someone going down that horrible path. It is a subject that we have to talk about and raise awareness. It's about using Harry’s story to talk about other people’s stories so that they don't feel fear about having those conversations.”

Sarah Horton-Walsh

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