Hiking in support of Mind – for better mental health

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Sarah Baker is a Senior Operations Manager at Havas Lynx Group. In this blog, Sarah has kindly shared her own experience of mental health, along with an amazing challenge her family took on in support of Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity. 

In September 2017, my brother Paul (known as Edmo to many) lost his long battle with depression. Paul was mischievous, impulsive and naughty. But he was also incredibly protective, loving and caring with a huge family and three gorgeous girls that adored him.

The family and Paul’s friends were left shocked and utterly broken-hearted when he died. Losing someone to depression is a complex grieving process and the guilt and regret is hard to comprehend. Having never lost someone so close to me before, I hadn’t realised that grief could be such a physical pain. Losing Paul left me struggling to complete the simplest of tasks and also triggered my own journey with depression.

But despite all that, I can draw positives on the process we have all been through. As a family, we are stronger and closer than ever. I would also say we live in the moment more, pursuing the little things that are going to make us happy rather than putting them off. We celebrate and remember Paul where possible and I would say that losing Paul has shaped us, but no longer defines us.

As a family, we wanted to do something positive so myself, my Dad and my husband signed up to do a 24-hour hike for Mind, a charity that supports and helps anyone facing tough times with mental health. Paul loved the mountains, so the challenge felt apt.

The training was a great opportunity to get out in the fresh air and enjoy some hikes in the Lakes and the Peaks in preparation, which sometimes you don’t get the chance to do when you have young children. I also grabbed any opportunity to get some miles in my legs, often ‘encouraging’ colleagues to join me at lunchtime to get some steps under my belt. Not only did this all help with the training, it also helped my own mental health by having a golden excuse to get out and about whenever possible.

The date for the challenge hurtled towards us out of nowhere. We arrived in Pitlochry on the Friday evening to check into the youth hostel and enjoy some carb loading whilst having our safety briefing. Nerves were high, but we quickly befriended a few characters that we knew were going to make the whole experience more enjoyable.

We set off at 8AM in rather drizzly weather, up and down mountains and along rivers. There were refreshment stops along the way and sorry sights whose feet were the stuff of nightmares. I was glad I’d broken my boots in. At about 8PM, we stopped off at the hostel for a hot meal and a change of clothes and set off again with our head-torches and a fresh batch of mars bars.

I was expecting this part of the adventure to be a bit flatter, but the first 4 hours were back into the mountains which were very slippy and boggy. The last 6 hours were by far the most challenging. Not only due to the tiredness but the Abba medley that lasted an hour almost had me broken.

The challenge was to walk for 24 hours so it was with mixed emotions when the leaders announced we were 2 hours ahead of schedule so would have to find an extra trek to top up the time. We arrived at the finish line just before 8AM where we were welcomed with a glass of fizz and a cooked breakfast. I don’t remember it.

I’m incredibly proud of everything we achieved with the walk. My Dad (who was the oldest member of the group by some way) was phenomenal and my husband was there to offer the support of a handhold or a spot of micky taking when needed. The preparation and the experience itself has supported the grieving process for all of us and I am so glad it’s something we embarked on as a family.

The support within Havas Lynx Group has been incredible. From people sharing their own stories, to the generous sponsorship that friends and colleagues – some of whom I have never even met – have offered.

To date, we have a team sponsorship total of £5,722. Far beyond our original target and in no small part down to lots of you. So thank you for making a difference.

I wore my medal for a week!

Thank you Sarah for sharing. This Christmas, we have been supporting Mind as a business, raising both awareness and money for the charity. If you wish to donate to Mind, you can do so through the link here.