Helping fight the stigma of mental illness

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YHA’s ambassador and young adventurer Alex Staniforth is urging young people in Bedfordshire to speak out about their mental health issues, tell someone they trust and seek help.

His advice follows his completion of an epic 72-day, 5,000 mile challenge - #ClimbtheUK, which involved him climbing the highest points in all of the UK’s 100 counties, including Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire, to raise awareness of young people’s mental health as well as raise more than £22,000 for the mental health charity YoungMinds.

#ClimbTheUK, which involved him travelling more than 5,000 miles on foot, by bike and in a kayak, stretched Alex’s limits physically and mentally. He described the challenge as his ‘new Everest’.

Alex has already attempted to reach the peak of Everest twice, only to be thwarted by Mother Nature in the shape of avalanches, the second of which two years ago killed three of his colleagues.

YoungMinds UK, the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people, is particularly close to Alex’s heart as he has suffered from mental health issues since he was a boy. He was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was nine and has also had to overcome a bad stammer, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, low self-confidence, bullying and low self-esteem and eating disorders which the condition triggered.

Alex said: “Mental illness is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with – far more difficult than climbing Everest. Everyone has their own mountain to climb and my big message over the last few months has been that if you’re suffering from mental health issues, please speak out, tell someone you trust.”

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