A FORMER pupil of Loretto School in Musselburgh is set to complete an incredible challenge of more than 700 miles – one for every person lost to suicide last year in Scotland.

Rory McAusland, 27, is hoping his walking, running, rowing and cycling challenges will raise £40,000 for the Samaritans and military mental health charity Combat Stress.

He is set to run four-and-a-half marathons, row three marathons, walk 110 miles and cycle 350 miles this year, with each mile reflecting a life that ended.

He has launched a successful social media campaign #Calories4Casualties in memory of the 71 military personnel who took their own lives. People are being asked to burn 71 calories through exercise, posting on social media, donating to either charity and nominating two to five friends to do the same.

Supporters include former SAS serviceman, adventurer and UK Chief Scout Bear Grylls, two-time Olympic rowing gold medallist Heather Stanning, 2017 World’s Strongest Man Eddie Hall, as well as Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors rugby clubs.

The social media challenge has been posted more than 500 times online and has raised more than £4,000 so far.

Rory boarded at Loretto from 2005 from 2008. He recently met its head of sport, ex-Scotland rugby captain Jason White, on a visit back to his old school to give a talk about mental health.

A self-employed contractor for Lloyds Bank, he is now preparing for this first event, a marathon row of 26.2 miles, at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh next Saturday (April 20).

His challenges will continue with: running a marathon in Stirling; walking and completing a CrossFit workout dedicated to lost servicemen and women at the top of Ben Nevis on May 12, the centenary anniversary of Combat Stress; Glasgow marathon row; Edinburgh Marathon run; completing 96 miles along the West Highland Way; cycling from Oban to Inverness, a total of 109 miles; Aberdeen Half Marathon run; Aberdeen marathon row; Combat Stress half-marathon run; cycling 56 miles from Glasgow to Edinburgh; Glasgow Half Marathon run; Inverness Marathon run; and cycling from Tayinloan to Aberdeen, a total of 240 miles.

Rory, who lives in Edinburgh, said that he hoped his efforts would “inspire” people to be kinder to one another, listen, forgive and reduce the stigma of mental health.

He said: “I decided to focus on suicide because, whilst I think it’s great that companies and people are more focused and accepting of mental health, I don’t think we give suicide enough attention. The majority of these deaths can be avoided through love, support and communication.

“One in four people experience a mental health issue every year in the UK – that means 16 million people – which is a well-known fact. However, less well known is that one in five people will experience suicidal thoughts in their lifetime and one in 14 people will attempt to take their own life during their lifetime.

“That’s a huge proportion of people and I feel that we need to stop judging them or labelling them, and instead, embrace and support them.

“Last year over 700 people took their own life in Scotland and over 5,800 people around the UK. Scotland has been the only home nation country in the last few years which has actually seen its suicide rate increase rather than decrease.

“Every suicide is said to personally affect and change the life of 32 people, which means that last year 22,400 people were affected by the loss of a loved one in Scotland which is effectively the whole of Musselburgh being affected by suicide in one year.

“Some 185,600 people were affected by the loss of a loved one in the UK, which is effectively the whole of Aberdeen being affected in one year.”

Rory added: “Seventy-five to 85 per cent of all suicides are male and this is largely due to the fact that social pressures on men mean we’re less likely to talk up and ask for help.

“Phrases like ‘man up’ or ‘big boys don’t cry’ make it consciously unacceptable for men to ask for help without appearing weak, so I think we need to have a change in how we talk and define what it is to be strong and masculine.

“No one should feel like they need to suffer in silence or worry about being judged for saying how they feel.

“I have had my own struggles with depression and loneliness and, whilst I have not lost a loved one to suicide myself, it would be hypocritical to not say that I’ve felt alone and possibly wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for some people in my life.

“I hope that my vulnerability and honesty will inspire others and hopefully save a life.”

To support Rory, go to uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RoryMcAusland