The first step to climbing a mountain

Posted on: 14 Jul 2018

So, what am I doing and why?

In October 2018, in order to mark World Mental Health Day, a group of Mental Health First Aid advocates and supporters will be hiking Mount Toubkal in Morocco.

What is Mental Health First Aid? I hear you ask. Well, we are part of a global movement for change that encourages people to recognise that everyone has both physical and mental health. We train people to be able to keep others, and themselves, safe in the event of a mental health crisis. Alongside this, we encourage and enable more open and meaningful conversations, as well as support with what to do when someone doesn't just respond with 'I'm fine'. We don't train people to be psychologists or therapists, just like a physical first aid course wouldn't teach you how to be a doctor or paramedic, but we do help them know how to get someone more support if they recognise that its needed. I am proud to work for Mental Health First Aid England, and also to be both an Adult and a Youth Mental Health First Aider. 

Along with 10 others, I am fundraising to train over 100 expedition leaders in Mental Health First Aid, so that they can keep the groups they lead safe. It's been a while since I've done my Duke of Edinburgh's award, but I know that whilst hikes are physically challenging, the biggest mountains to physical challenges are in the mind. Expedition leaders have to have physical first aid in case of accidents, but aren't required to be able to keep people safe in the event of anxiety, psychosis or a panic attack (all of which are more common than you'd think at high altitude). This trek aims to start to change that.

Mt Toubkal is the highest mountain in North Africa, standing at 13,671ft - which is higher than the cruising altitude of light aircraft. I've never climbed anything like it - the highest I've climbed being just a quarter of that. Right now, I'm undergoing physio on my back, so I'm not in the best shape I've ever been in, but I'm certainly up for the challenge, and I don't give up.

Thank you in advance for your support, and for coming on this journey with me!

Sarah.xx

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