A PETERSFIELD woman struggling with mental health issues has just completed a gruelling walking challenge in aid of charity.
Amie Byford, aged 23, says since she was a teenager she has had to live with mental health problems.
To help highlight the issue that affects people across the UK, she walked 1,084 miles to raise more than £700 for The Mental Health Foundation.
She said: “I was doing so much exercise and walking and thought I could raise awareness for mental health and support a charity very close to my heart.
“The distance I walked is the same as walking from John o’Groats to Land’s End, and to do it I’ve walked around the local area of Petersfield.”
Amie started her walks, often around the Heath and at Queen Elizabeth Country Park, in February and hit her target mileage 93 days later on Saturday, May 1.
She said: “I love being outside and the benefits walking has had not only on my physical health but also mentally.
“Being outside walking also gives me the time I need to think and feel more like myself again.”
Sadly Amie has been plagued by debilitating mental health issues that often left her clinically depressed since she was a teenager.
She said: “I struggled alone for many years and learnt to deal with my emotions in an unhealthy way – it’s always been something I’ve kept very personal as I’ve been ashamed and embarrassed to talk openly about it.”
But despite everything she managed to launch her own beauty business in Petersfield, but then Covid struck and on March 23 last year the country went into lockdown.
Amie said: “Over the past year I’ve been out of work and had to close my business. I’ve had to overcome a huge hurdle of different emotions and unfortunate personal situations which have changed my outlook on life massively.
“The pandemic tested my mental health to its extreme, like it did with thousands of other people throughout the lockdowns.
“It became apparent that lots of people were struggling, even those who hadn’t experienced mental health issues before.
“I was doing so much walking and thought I could use it to raise awareness for mental health and support a charity very close to my heart, The Mental Health Foundation.
“I’d hit my lowest point and just come out of an incredibly bad mental place.
“I’ve been through emotional turmoil over the past year and I needed to prove to myself and those around me that I’m stronger than my depression and despite this diagnosis I am capable of achieving anything; I wanted to help break the stigma mental health brings.
“I also wanted a challenge to help push myself through each day and give myself purpose again, while promoting that it’s okay not to be okay, to stop hiding our emotions and to learn to open up more about how we feel.
“The reason I walked 1,084 miles is because it’s the equivalent to John o’Groats to Land’s End and I wanted to promote the message that mental health is felt all over the country, on a national scale and that anyone can feel or experience a change in their mental health.
“I’ve been so lucky this lockdown to be able to have company on my walks and I’m so grateful to those who have joined me, shared their stories and struggles and helped me raise awareness and donations for the mental health foundation.
“Despite being alone, I’ve not felt isolated and have felt comfort in being open about how I’m feeling and helping others in as many ways as I can.”