Mental health advocate Yamana is taking on the challenge of climbing the highest mountain in North Africa. Expedition leaders responsible for the safety of climbers like Yamana are often required to be trained in physical first aid, but the same can’t be said of mental health first aid. She hopes the trek she’s taking part in can help address this imbalance by raising funds to train more expedition leaders to be able to safeguard both physical and mental health.

As it’s world mental health day next week, I’d like to talk about my experience of mental illness. I started experiencing anxiety at around 14 years old; a few years prior I had just moved to a new town and started secondary school, which to begin with was a really fun change.

However, after a while I started experiencing shakes, stomach cramps, nausea and at its worst – panic attacks and paranoid thoughts. It got to the point that the anxiety became so overwhelming that I struggled to attend school or leave the house at all. I saw my GP who assured me there was nothing physically wrong and then after three years of trying different tools to manage my symptoms, I have now been diagnosed with social anxiety and have been prescribed medication as well as therapy. 

I’m happy to say that I am now feeling on top of my anxiety. I now understand it better and this helps me handle it. What’s really helped me through this process has been my supportive family and friends. Another useful tool I’ve found helpful is the book, We’re All Mad Here by Claire Eastham.

Another important factor that helps me is keeping active, being at home a lot I started to practice yoga and run with my Dad. Exercise forced me to focus on the here and now, rather than have my head frantic. As a result, my mind has piped-down and I’ve been able to do things that once terrified me such as using public transport and meeting people.

This key connection between exercise and feeling positive was a real breakthrough and has really motivated me to do this fundraising trek to the top of mount Toubkal - which is 4,167 metres high. I believe that I am well because I take care of my physical health and that in turn helps my mental health.

It would be amazing to have expedition leaders trained as mental health first aiders. so that they can support young people like me experiencing mental illness to get out, be active, and be well.

To support the expedition by donating, click here.

To find out more information about Adult MHFA courses, click here.