Jon blogs about taking on Mind Hike 2016 and the friendships he built along the way.
It was with rose-tinted memories of Duke of Edinburgh expeditions and the fun of trekking that I signed up to Mind Hike in December 2015.
I have long supported Mind and try to get as involved as I can. For me this is a very personal cause as I myself am in a long battle with depression and its ally, anxiety. In the course of my first degree, these two took me to some very dark places and the work and support of Mind and other similar organisations meant that no matter how bad it got, I was never alone in the darkness.
So I committed to Mind Hike and very quickly received all sorts of fundraising tips and materials from the fantastic team at Mind. I’m sure if you ask anyone from our Hike they can all tell you about how amazing Emily and Alexa (our Mind Hike 2016 event team) were, with so many supportive emails and updates (and even care packages!) coming our way in the months before the hike. There was always a friendly face at the other end of any emails or calls in the build up to the event and I really can’t speak highly enough of those two.
"Suddenly the reality of it was upon me. I was going to have to walk 40-miles in 24-hours."
As the hike grew near we were put in to two teams, to walk from opposite ends of an 80-mile stretch of Offa’s Dike on the English-Welsh border to meet in the middle after 24-hours of walking – Team Lion and Team Dragon. I was part of Team Dragon who were to walk from the North downwards, taking in a slightly hillier route. We all began to introduce ourselves via a Facebook group set up by Emily and Alexa and already there was so much support and community between us all. Helpful tips were shared, and supportive messages were sent to trekkers when they found things a bit tougher going.
Before I knew it, it was July, and Mind Hike had arrived. Suddenly the reality of it was upon me. I was going to have to walk 40-miles in 24-hours with a group of 20 people I had never met (there had been a training day organised by Emily and Alexa, but I unfortunately hadn’t been able to attend). On the train journey there I was admittedly nervous, but part way on the journey I met Emily and Alexa and Maria (another Mind team member) and they were so lovely and welcoming and we got chatting and before I knew it the journey was over; nerves were a distant memory.
We met on the Friday at the hotel we’d have for two nights (with only one of them being spent actually in the bed) and got a chance to meet all of our teams. I have to say my nerves were completely unjustified. Everyone was so lovely and even the hotel staff were getting into the atmosphere of camaraderie. Some of us even grabbed a beer or two as we watched the Wales-Belgium quarter final of the Euros. There was an air of excitement and we couldn’t wait to get started.
The next morning the two teams assembled for a quick photo before parting ways and heading to our start points for our 8am set-offs. The journey over was a chance to do some more meeting of team members and the mood just got better and better.
"The thing that really came out of it most of all was the feeling of being a team."
As for the hike itself, it wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be. There were highs – the amazing views and summits conquered, and lows – being caught in a torrential downpour and the realisation at about midnight that this is far from over. But the thing that really came out of it most of all was the feeling of being a team. Through all of the swings of the hike, there was a real feeling of being in it together and there would always be someone that would help out when emotions were running high. I can honestly say that I met some lovely people and that’s what will stick with me for many years to come. It sounds like a cliché, but the conversations you have at three in the morning on a Welsh hillside really do bring people together.
For me, Mind Hike was a brilliant experience, my personal highlight being the amazing views we got when crossing a Welsh valley by walking across an aqueduct!
To anyone thinking about signing up for Mind Hike I would say absolutely go for it. You will get to meet some amazing people whilst making a real difference to a crucial cause.
Jon Williams, Mind Hike 2016
Read about types of mental health problems
Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.