The theme for this May’s Mental Health Awareness Week championed by the Mental Health Foundation is anxiety. The foundation’s recent survey showed that “a quarter of adults reported feeling so anxious that it stopped them from doing the things they want to do some or all of the time.” They go on to point out that “anxiety is a normal emotion in us all”, which is easy to understand as we will at some point all experience feelings of anxiety in our lives, perhaps connected to exam pressures, relationships, money issues, starting a new job (or losing one) or other big life events. But sometimes this feeling of anxiety can get out of control and become a mental health problem, especially if it’s not talked about and becomes internalised.
Fortunately, in recent years, the landscape surrounding mental health has undergone a transformative shift, and there has been increasing awareness and understanding about mental health with conversations led by a number of public figures who courageously share their personal stories of struggle, resilience and recovery. This openness is finally helping to shatter the silence surrounding mental health and fostering a much more enlightened environment where individuals feel empowered to seek support and speak up about their own experiences.
Creating the right moments to talk about wellbeing and mental health is so important and is often the start of a process of healing and help for individuals. This is something Alex Staniforth, a record-breaking adventurer, ultra-runner and published author from Cheshire, understood when he co-founded the Mind Over Mountains charity. This charitable trust offers professional mental health support by harnessing the healing power of nature and aims to bring together hill walking, mindfulness and time with experienced coaches and counsellors in an unhurried, unpressured setting.
At just 27, Alex had already survived the two biggest disasters in Mount Everest history. In the Nepal earthquake of 2015, he was trapped at camp 1 when still a teenager. However, his biggest challenges have been much closer to home, dealing with depression, eating disorders, epilepsy, stammering and bullying since childhood. The outdoors has long been Alex’s toolkit for managing the peaks and troughs of his mental health.
Alex helped to found Mind Over Mountains, a charity created to help others by offering a chance to walk and talk, escaping into nature with a team of experienced coaches, counsellors and mountain leaders. The various events organised by the charity are spread across the UK from the Lake District to North Wales and Dartmoor, to name but a few. These events range from one day hill walks to weekend retreats. Each creates the potential of a relaxing, calm environment, a time to connect with nature and a chance to step back from everyday life. They are a perfect time to walk, talk and find stillness in some of Britain’s most special places.
“Mind Over Mountains creates a safe space to challenge and re-connect yourself in a fun and supportive environment without any pressure, or expectations”
So of course when Alex contacted the team at Bath House to see if we would like to support the Mind Over Mountains charity, we could instantly see a connection, and a shared perspective for the positive force of the natural world that surrounds us in the Lake District. Whether it’s experiencing the calming effects of nature through walking in the landscape or using Bath House natural products on your skin as part of a ritual of self-care and beauty, the positive influence of nature is beneficial for personal wellbeing and health.
We were delighted to be able to support Alex and the trust by becoming one of their founding members of their membership and patron programme to donate and raise vital funds to enable their work. Our support helps fund up to 15 bursary spaces. These bursaries help make the walks accessible to all, so no matter what the challenges those wanting to participate have in their lives, they can still find support and respite. If you are experiencing financial hardship, long-term illness, abusive circumstances, have suffered loss, or are in a role of long-term care for another, the team from Mind Over Mountains charity says “we’re here for you.”
And as part of the Mental Health Awareness Week, we wanted to draw your attention to this amazingly thoughtful and imaginative organisation that helps people’s lives in so many ways. If you want to join an event or would like to support the charity you can find out all you need to know by visiting www.mindovermountains.org.uk.
The Mind Over Mountains charity really works, as one participant commented “yesterday for me was exactly the kind of ‘circuit-breaker’ I needed. On reflection, your charity is exactly the tonic we need right now. It’s unique, and that uniqueness is driven by the qualities in your team: empathy, warmth, and spiritual awareness to do good.”
– Steven, Yorkshire Dales participant, 2020