At some point in our lives nearly half of us will have to overcome a mental illness.

Whether it be a mild form or more severe, it will happen. It’s something that will test us, something that will push us to our limits. Getting through a mental illness is like climbing a steep mountain that is rocky and, to some, never ending. Climbing that mountain will feel like we will never reach the top, we will never see what’s on the other side. The route we take to the summit, how it feels getting ourselves there – this is something we don’t talk about, something that has this cloud of shame hanging over it. The misconceptions still exist that people with mental health problems are dangerous, violent, criminal and unable to live a “normal” life. The media often doesn’t help with these views either.

Climbing any mountain alone isn’t an easy task and I’ve climbed lots of them – both physically and mentally. There is no quick route to the top, no easy path to take. In fact, the best route to the top is often the one that isn’t necessarily obvious. It will require hard work, it will require sheer determination, but getting to the top is always easier with the right tools and the right support behind you. No mountain top will ever be the end of the climb but learning to push yourself through its ups and downs is key to living life to its fullest.

Far too often, I read the news online or watch the news on TV and see that another young person has taken their own life. A lot of people will ask Why?

Why have they taken their own life? Why didn’t they talk to someone? Unless you have been in that position, you will never truly know what it feels like – to feel like you have no other way, to feel so low you want to end it all, to feel like you’re not in control of your own life. The question that should be asked is; did they know who to turn to? Did they know that support was out there? It all goes back to my point earlier, about having this cloud of shame hanging over our heads. No one will look at you different, no one will call you weak, no one will turn their back on you – you just need to ask for their support and let them in.

I am writing this feeling like the biggest hypocrite though, as I myself have never really been that open about my own mental health. Like a lot of people, I’ve always felt embarrassed, ashamed to talk about it and wondered just what people would think of me. It’s hard to describe why I feel like this. I guess I just didn’t want to burden anyone with something that shouldn’t be their problem as well as mine, feeling like other people have it worse than me so why should I add to their problems.

I spend a lot of my time climbing mountains and just generally exploring outdoors and going places I’ve never been to before. This has been my way of escaping reality, even if it’s just for a temporary block on life itself. Every time I get to a summit, I just stand there for a moment and try to look in the distance and see just how far I have come and how high I’ve climbed. When I’m standing there looking below me, the 1001 thoughts running through my head would disappear. I feel on top of the world, the pain and exhaustion it took to get there, would simply just disappear and nothing else seems to matter anymore.

A lot of people will say climbing a mountain just won’t cut it for me, it won’t get me though this, it’s not the support I need, and you’re right it probably won’t. I know it’s a small thing but climbing mountains is my safe place, it’s my support, my safety net, my way of coping things because I did it, I got myself to the top, I challenged myself and pushed myself to the limits. I took myself out of the back seat and I took control of my own life and I can see what’s on the other side. You just need to find your support, your way of coping with things, what works for someone won’t necessarily work for others.

In April 2020 I will be completing my biggest climb to date, I’ll be trekking to Everest EBC and summiting Kala Patthar (just under 20,000 feet). This is something I’ve always wanted to do and something I’ve always said one day I will do. That’s why it’s being completely self-funded. It’s my challenge, my climb and my way of proving to myself I can do anything I want to.

This isn’t just a big green tick on my bucket list though, I’m using this challenge as a way to help fund the work that PAPYRUS does and help them to support others who unfortunately, don’t have anything or anyone they can get support from.

Suicide is the biggest killer of young people under the 35 in the UK. Every year over 1,600 young people take their own life. PAPYRUS is the national charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide. It’s HOPELINE247 confidential helpline provides practical advice and support to young people with thoughts of suicide and those concerned about a young person who may have thoughts of suicide. HOPELINE247 is staffed by trained professionals and offers a phone, text and email service. PAPYRUS also offers training, delivers regional outreach programmes, and campaigns and influences national policy.

I want to raise as much money as I can to support the work they do, helping them to reach more people across the UK, supporting young people at risk of suicide.

Every £5 raised can help pay for a potentially life-saving contact to HOPELINE247 from a young person wanting to stay safe from their thoughts of suicide.  Thank you.

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