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Featured Image Credit: Instagram/alexstaniforth_
One LAD has turned his own troubles with mental health into a force for good, creating a charity to help others who are suffering - and he's just raised £10,000 by completing a pretty impressive challenge.
Alex Staniforth, 25, from Kendal, co-founded Mind Over Mountains after he suffered with his mental health, as well as coping with eating disorder bulimia from 2012.
Speaking to LADbible, Alex says: "Mental ill health is probably the biggest challenge I've faced. Since 2012 I've suffered with the eating disorder bulimia and several bouts of depression, anxiety and panic attacks.
"As a male athlete I was 'supposed to be mentally tough' and it was incredibly daunting to speak about my eating disorder. When I eventually sought help, it took me longer to access therapy than it did to cycle, walk and run 5000 miles around the UK in 2017.
"Finding the outdoors and exercise has been the most powerful tool for managing my mental health. After an initial pilot event, myself and my mentor/friend Chris decided to form the charity to help other people experience the same benefits.
"We now have a small core team of people passionate about the power of the outdoors for mental well-being."
Alex explains that the charity is for anyone - it's helped people who feel 'a bit stressed' and need a break, to those with severe long-term conditions including schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and PTSD.
Alex says: "Our groups are intentionally small so we create an inclusive and confidential space for people, but we've delivered four programmes for over 50 people so far and a Mental Health First Aid course at a discounted rate."
And to raise money for his charity, Alex decided to put himself through a true test of physical and mental endurance, finishing his incredible feat during the week that marks Suicide Prevention Day (10 September).
He explains: "On 30 August I completed my challenge to run the National Three Peaks - this involves climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, except I ran the entire distance between them - over 450 miles in nine days, 12 hours and 51 minutes.
"Seventeen marathons in total and almost 50 miles per day."
That's right - Alex went full Forrest Gump, running all the way from Scotland and through a fair chunk of England too.
He continues: "This was aiming to raise £10,000 for Mind Over Mountains and break the current record. I'd been running since 3.30am on the final day and sleep deprivation caught up with me (I even had a kip in a bus stop) so sadly missed the record by over an hour.
"I sprained my ankle a few weeks before starting the challenge and had Storm Francis on the way so I'm quite pleased regardless."
Regardless of any record, that is incredibly good going - and Alex smashed his £10,000 target.
Mind Over Mountains aims to harness the great outdoors to help to restore peoples' mental health. It also provides funding for anyone suffering financial difficulty, whether due to things like unemployment, bereavement or illness, and even for those receiving income support.
Alex says: "We offer guided walks in the UK mountains alongside professional coaching, mindfulness, inspirational speakers and a safe confidential space for people to 'walk and talk' with like-minded people.
"We believe that spending time in nature is the most powerful way to build resilience to stay physically and mentally well. We provide bursaries for people who are unemployed or in difficult circumstances so that everyone can benefit."
Covid-19 threw up more issues for Alex and his charity - but one thing was for sure, he wanted to make sure front line workers who were mentally affected by the coronavirus outbreak get all the funding they need to join in.
He says: "Like all charities and organisations, the pandemic has created massive challenges and we were scratching our heads for ways to help people when they needed us most.
"But we were determined to adapt our programmes with the restrictions and delivered one-day events in the Lakes and Peak District with virtual coaching before and after.
"Seeing people re-connecting and enjoying the outdoors again after these months of isolation was inspiring and heart-warming to see. Even if it's just a small group, we can still make a big difference."
I think we can all agree that Alex is an absolute inspiration.
UOKM8? is a campaign by LADbible, featuring films and stories that provide advice and inspiration on mental health. Explore more here and don't suffer in silence. Let's talk mental health.
MIND: 0300 123 3393.
Samaritans: 116 123.
CALM: Outside London 0808 802 5858, inside London 0800 58 58 58.