Setting the Challenge for Mental Health Awareness
Intrepid adventurers’ are about to embark on the journey of a lifetime, a challenge that is also a metaphor for the battles faced in mental illness and the freedom that comes from asking for help. The two adventurers’ are Desmond Howard and Ian Daniel, friends who share a common history of battles with mental health and the dangers that surround dealing with mental health problems alone.
Now in an effort to break down the stigmas associated with mental health, these two men will embark on a journey of a lifetime, travelling the entire coastline of Namibia, from the beginning of the Namibian coastline at Oranjemund and along the coast to the Kunene river mouth at the most Northern tip of our coast. All on a Surfski Paddle, carrying their own food and water for the over a month long trip, that they will do unsupported. 99FM’s MYD Heart sat down with the two, Desmond (Des) and Ian, to find out how this journey is a metaphor for approaching mental health issues.
“I was diagnosed, Bipolar when I was nineteen years old. I’ve been on medication ever since. I’ve had rocky periods in my life where I went into, I would say, the darker side of life but I found the light again, now we are doing crazy stuff like paddling along the coast.” Says Ian, as he laughs.
“I’ve lived with intense anxiety for my entire life, not knowing that it’s not normal. I lost my way into drugs and alcohol because it’s a quick fix.”
Des shares what brought him to embark on this challenge, “From my perspective, I’ve lived with intense anxiety for my entire life, not knowing that it’s not normal. I lost my way into drugs and alcohol because it’s a quick fix. I’ve gone through numerous attempts at stopping alcohol, stopping drugs and I’ve managed to do it and then it just slips back into the same old routine but just recently, the last two years, I went to go and see somebody. That doctor said, ‘Mate, this is a real thing, you are not making it up.’ Since taking medication, I don’t even think about alcohol anymore. I don’t think about drugs because it’s not a reality anymore. The reason for it, being my problem, has gone away.”
Having both experienced the dangers of trying to cope with mental health concerns, alone, these two men are hoping that embarking on this challenge will encourage others to ask for the help they need. “When we started this, there was no intention to do this for anything other than for Ian and I, but then we thought ‘there is something that I can maybe give back to our community’ Because it makes such a difference, to speak to someone, just to have somebody tell you ‘you are just ill, there’s just a chemical thing going down that you need to sort that out and it’s okay’” says Des.
That’s what this challenge is, we are pushing ourselves and hopefully we pushing ourselves for a whole lot of others.”
Ian adds that through this challenge they hope to inspire others to be fearless when it comes to approaching mental health, “That’s what this challenge is, we are pushing ourselves and hopefully we pushing ourselves for a whole lot of others.” says Ian who adds that through them challenging themselves, they hope to challenge others to take that first step of seeking help. Des adds that it just takes one first step, “You just need to go for that first session.”
Ian notes that the key in dealing with mental health is “setting the right challenge, taking the right medication, getting the right help and obviously a routine.” This is how their challenge is a metaphor for approaching mental health. Des explains further, “I’ve sort of picked my battles. I’ve said ‘do I fight every battle at once’, because there’s a list you know, these things you have to deal with, do you attack them all at once or do you go, ‘hang on’? I took one massive step back, and looked at one thing at a time.”
“I think you’ve got to be open, you’ve got to try and move forward and I think also it gives people hope. That’s why I’m doing this.” says Ian who adds how important it is to challenge yourself, “For this challenge, which we are calling the B2B, or Border to Border, we can achieve it. We know we can. It’s going to be hard to get there but the experience we have along the way is also going to define us and I believe life was meant to be about the amount of difference you make in people’s lives.”
You can follow Ian and Des on their courageous journey along the Namibian coastline by following them on Skeleton Coast Challenge – border2border facebook page or staying tuned to 99FM as we check in with the team when they come to shore throughout their adventure.
Written by Kirsty Watermeyer