Graduate takes on 20-20 mountain challenge for mental health

Friday, May 24, 2024

A psychology graduate is climbing 20 peaks, in 20 days to raise money for a mental health charity and to raise awareness of the mental struggles many students face today.

Suicide is the biggest killer of young adults. The deaths of 1 in 4 men under 35 years-old and 1 in 5 women are self-inflicted.

“I was very nearly one of those statistics myself when I was in my first year at Portsmouth University,” says Laura Hazle. “I'm taking on this challenge and raising money for Mind Over Mountains because I want to help normalise discussion about mental health.”

Mind Over Mountains organises walks and weekend retreats in places like the Peak District, Lakes and Welsh mountains. Not only is walking and talking in nature itself therapeutic, every walk includes mindfulness sessions and the walkers are accompanied by qualified coaches and counsellors.

To raise money for the charity, Laura plans to climb the 10 highest peaks in the Lake District and then the 10 highest in Eryri (Snowdonia). It will be a total ascent of 20,000 metres over 20 days in June.

“The hills and being in nature helped me reconnect to myself through my darkest times, and whilst walking isn't a cure for mental illness, it certainly has helped me to manage my struggles with depression when I was younger and now helps me maintain mental wellbeing as an adult,” says Laura.

“This year marks the 20th anniversary of my suicide attempt after struggling with depression as a teenager. I feel incredibly grateful to have survived that difficult time in my life and recognise how those experiences have shaped me. Since then, whilst not immune from experiencing anxiety and depression, I know I am equipped with the tools and support to get through when times get tough.”

Mind Over Mountains is aiming to raise £500,000 to meet the growing demand for mental health services. The charity is increasingly working with social prescribing link workers, who are based within primary care networks such as GP practices. Patients can then qualify for free or heavily subsided places on walks and retreats, funded by the charity.

“Evidence consistently shows a positive relationship between spending time in nature or exposure to nature and good health and wellbeing.” says the charity's chief executive Ian Sansbury.

“Our ambition is to make nature- and activity-based responses to wellbeing the norm in mental health care and support.”

Laura Hazle adds that a crucial first step – and a key motivation for her challenge – is to normalise discussion about mental health, especially in education and the workplace.

“I do a lot of hiking, but this many peaks in consecutive days will be a challenge for me physically and mentally. But the real challenge is the one that many people face everyday to get out of bed and function when they are having a difficult time with their mental health” she says. “My experiences earlier in life with suicide and depression have taught me how to manage my mental health, I'm one of the lucky ones. But as a society we still have a long way to go to help others who may be struggling."

You can sponsor Laura by visiting her JustGiving page