There is a lot of stigma around mental health and suicide, so naturally, I had reservations about talking about this subject. A lot of thoughts went through my head, the loudest being: "Will people think about me and treat me differently?". However, I thought about the potential impact my campaign could have on others. People who may feel alone with their own mental health struggles or their families, loved ones, friends or colleagues – mental health struggles impact not only the person but everyone around them. If my openness about the issue could make a difference or help one person it makes it all worthwhile.
I chose two charities to raise funds for: Mind, the mental health charity for England and Wales and my local branch of Samaritans, the telephone helpline. Whilst I knew a lot about Mind's work locally and nationally through my direct experience with their services, as well as keeping up to date with their campaigning work. I knew little about Samaritans other than recalling the Samaritans campaign ("Talk to us") at London Bridge and train platforms. Luckily, one of the Samaritans volunteers, Liane, reached out to me when I set up my fundraising page. We met for a coffee and I learned about Liane and other Samaritans' vital work in providing a non-judgemental ear to anyone who may need it. We talked about how stressful and lonely the London commute can feel – I felt supported and understood.
Considering all the above, one of the key decisions I made was to walk with all my baggage rather than get it delivered between accommodation. This had a two-way impact on my walk. Firstly, I had to decide what baggage to take with me ("Do I really need to take this jacket?"). This resonated with me very deeply and made me think about all the emotional baggage we carry throughout our lives, but also that we do have the power to pick and choose what we are carrying with us through the walk of life. Secondly, I was aware that carrying all the weight would put an enormous strain on my not-so-strong knees, which led me to think about the support I needed in order to be able to complete the journey (i.e. good boots, walking poles, kinesiology tape and a good companion to make me laugh when it got tough – these were my life savers). As in daily life, we need to recognise that there will be times when we need support and therefore need to equip ourselves with ways to get it, no matter how hard it can be to ask for help (something I am getting better at though still struggle at times).
Walking for 5.5 days along a path I had not treaded before showed how vulnerable and dependent on others we all can be at times. If it was not for the kindness of local 'Samaritans' who opened their home and heart to offer a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast, who spent the whole day at a car park with their dog and a van with a coffee machine to offer a warming drink and a chat, who got up early in the morning to bake scrumptious scones, this walk would not have been possible. Let alone the support given by everyone who took the time to ask about my walk and shared their own story with me before, during or after the trek (and contributed to my fundraising) – for this I am greatly touched and forever grateful.