Hi. Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Steven Edwards, I am 33 years old and married to a beautiful woman called Frankie, as well as being ‘daddy’ to a mischievous puppy named Lyla. I have lived my whole life in East London/Essex and have been a Police Officer for almost 10 years. I am an amateur writer and Liverpool FC supporter, who loves nothing more than a round of golf in the sunshine. I am also somebody who has experienced problems with my mental health, having been diagnosed with both an anxiety disorder and depression. You have probably found yourself here because you are now aware that I will be taking part in a charity challenge – The Snowdon Multi-Activity Challenge on behalf of Mind. The challenge involves; Cycling 17km around the lake shore of Llyn Padarn, followed by climbing to the summit of Snowdon – 15km, 1085m high. We will then descend back down and Kayak for 4km around Llyn Padarn. Initially I was going to undertake a challenge alone, but as my battle with my mental health has required a strong team around me, it seemed only appropriate that my battle against Snowdon should involve the same. I will therefore be joined on this challenge by my wife, Frankie Edwards, my brother Tommy Edwards, my sister-in-law Roberta Cefai and my friends Anthony Crammer and Brad Frankel. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a fine team, and well deserving of the moniker ‘“Mind Team 6”.
So, why did we choose to raise money for Mind? Mind is an organisation that provides advice and support to anybody experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. Mind are also particularly aware that people like myself – who work and volunteer within the emergency services – are at an increased risk of experiencing a mental health problem compared to the general population, and delivered the Blue Light Programme in response to this issue.
Due to the Blue Light Programme, I was led to contact Mind and subsequently put in touch with my local Mind centre. I discovered that Mind were no longer able to deliver certain services for free, as they had done in the past, due to lack of funding. Whilst the costs are still incredibly low when compared to the benefits that you receive from them – and cheaper than pursuing such help privately – it is obviously an obstacle for people who simply cannot afford it.
I am fortunate. I have a loving family, willing to support me both emotionally and financially through my problems. My GP has been incredibly helpful, relentlessly pursuing NHS mental health services to get me the help I need. My friends have also been incredibly supportive, being available to talk when I need them, or keep me company when I feel low and alone. I have also been incredibly lucky to receive great support from my line managers at work, who have always put my health first, throughout my troubled times. But despite all of this support, I have still struggled. I therefore cannot begin to imagine what it feels like for those who are unfortunate enough to not receive such support at work or at home, and it is for people like these that Mind really exists.
Even in 2016, there is still a stigma attached to mental health and it is perhaps around this issue that Mind does it’s most valuable work. Awareness needs to be raised around the seriousness of the issue and the need for early intervention and support. Mental health problems are extremely prevalent in modern society, yet are often acknowledged with nothing more than a simple “pull yourself together, you’ll be fine”. Sometimes this is due to ignorance, but mostly it’s down to a simple lack of education.
For the vast majority of the time that I have been experiencing my problems, my family simply had no idea as to what was the right thing to say or do. And a major factor towards that was that neither did I. We spent a lot of time looking for help in all the wrong places. That wasn’t because people didn’t care, they simply didn’t know what to do. I spent a very long time thinking that I would merely snap out of it. That I was just being weak and could get my head straight with a few simple counselling sessions. I was wrong and wish I had known then, what I know now. Hopefully by continuing to raise awareness, Mind can prevent others from taking the same route that I have.
So, why did we choose the Snowdon Multi Activity Challenge? Firstly we wanted to pick a challenge that was truly that, a challenge. Something that would test us physically and emotionally. Something that didn’t require us to just do a bit of running or walking in preparation. We aim to train together and complete the challenge together. Physical wellbeing is a huge part of mental wellbeing.
On a personal note, I wanted to do this challenge (and do it for Mind) because I wanted to be clear as to my reasons for taking part. As I’ve mentioned above, there is a stigma around mental health that means many of us keep our issues to ourselves. I wanted to overcome my own anxiety about opening up. Not only for myself, but hopefully as a message to others who may be experiencing similar problems to mine. The more people that you tell, the more people that can help.
I am still very much in the midst of my problems. I still experience high levels of anxiety (often for no reason at all) on a daily basis, as well as dark bouts of depression. I take medication. I self harm. I feel suicidal. I lock myself away and shut down. But, as we speak I’m beginning to show signs of improvement. Having a goal (and a change in medication!) added to the love and support I receive from the people around me, is beginning to make a difference. I’m sure that there will be bumps on the road ahead, but at least I’m finally on the right road (the road to Snowdon!).
Sponsor us here http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/MindTeam6