Blyth man embarks on 73-mile hike to raise awareness of mental health issues
A Blyth man has hiked 73 miles along Hadrian's Wall to raise awareness of mental health issues and encourage people to open up about what is troubling them.
Simon Pearson started his five-day challenge in Wallsend, and eventually ended up at the Solway Firth.
His aim was to “get people talking” about mental health and along the way he had dozens of planned and unplanned conversations with fellow walkers.
He said: “The walk was about bringing more understanding of mental health and how it affects us.
“Suicide is on the rise and we need to get people talking about what’s going on in their heads and to know it’s OK to talk about it, and for people to ask if they’re OK.
“I was wearing a big green T-shirt saying ‘I’m walking to prevent suicide’ and when people asked what it was about it, it led to them talking to me about friends or relatives who had died and about mental health generally and wanting better understanding.”
Mr Pearson, a mental health practitioner who also hosts A Big Mouthful on LGBT+ issues, set off at Segedunum in North Tyneside, before stopping off at Heddon-on-the-Wall in Northumberland.
From there he headed to Chollerford, crossed into Cumbria, reached Gilsland, then Carlisle and finally finished in Bowness-on-Solway at the end of the Hadrian’s Wall Path.
Along the way he shared updates of the conversations he had about mental health issues on his social media channels to mark World Suicide Prevention Day, and urged followers to support Chester-le-Street-based charity If U Care Share.
He added: “Looking after our mental health has always been important but I believe that it has never been more so now.
“Because of increased social and economic pressures, among other issues, we are seeing higher levels of anxiety and depression along with difficulties in regulating our emotional responses to life and other complex mental health problems.
“It is therefore so important that we get in touch with who we are and make sure we look after our mental health.”
Research carried out since the outbreak of the pandemic has revealed more people in the UK of all ages are struggling with mental health issues.