Mental health foundation to provide support to North Yorkshire professionals with high-pressure jobs

Sarah Kekoa, Nicki Hall and Amanda Oates, setting on on a charity walk from Sowerby to Oxenhope last year, for the I choose life foundationSarah Kekoa, Nicki Hall and Amanda Oates, setting on on a charity walk from Sowerby to Oxenhope last year, for the I choose life foundation
Sarah Kekoa, Nicki Hall and Amanda Oates, setting on on a charity walk from Sowerby to Oxenhope last year, for the I choose life foundation
A bid to provide support to tackle a hidden problem of mental health among professional workers in North Yorkshire has been launched in the hope of providing some salvation from the pressure of their careers.

A foundation which has been established to help tackle the growing problems of mental health in society is now targeting workers in high-pressured jobs to ensure they have adequate support.

North Yorkshire County Council has provided funding for the I Choose Life Foundation, which is based in Summerbridge, near Harrogate, amid a dramatic rise in demand.

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Efforts are under way to allow those suffering from mental health issues to seek solace in nature and outdoor activities to provide a welcome respite from the demands of their careers.

Five workers in professions ranging from marketing to the civil service and police embarked on a challenge to climb the three highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales last weekend, the first activity organised specifically for workers in demanding careers.

Sarah Kekoa, the founder of the I Choose Life Foundation, told The Yorkshire Post that the organisation had seen a significant rise in the number of people seeking support.

The foundation was dealing with about 15 people a week when it was established in October 2018, the majority of whom were in their 20s and 30s.

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That figure has now increased to 100 people, with many middle-aged and professional people now coming forward.

Miss Kekoa said: “Mental health knows no boundaries, and it can affect anyone at any point in their life.

“For someone who has a good job and a seemingly perfect family life, they could still be affected by mental health issues.

“This is something we are seeing increasingly happen as the stigma of mental health is lessening, but it is still a long process.

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“These people are often men who are middle-aged and have grown up being told to put on a brave face and not to show any signs that they are struggling.

“But people do need the support and we are looking to provide that through not only the physical well-being with taking part in the challenges, but also emotionally as well as they are able to meet other people in similar situations and realise that they are not alone.”

A quarter of the nation’s population will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England, according to the Mind charity.

The proportion of people showing symptoms of depression has almost doubled since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics.

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However, Miss Kekoa maintained that the pressures caused by the Covid-19 crisis have amplified existing problems that often date back to childhood.

She said: “The pandemic has certainly magnified the problems, but they were evident already before coronavirus arrived.

“These are issues that have often persisted throughout a person’s life, how they have been told to simply carry on and deal with whatever comes their way, when in fact that is the worst way of coping.”

The Three Peaks challenge to climb Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, Snowdon raised £2,000 for the foundation, and more outdoor activities are planned throughout the summer.

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A group will undertake the Yorkshire Three Peaks in August, and a paddle-boarding challenge is also being organised.

The grant of £4,000 from North Yorkshire County Council’s Stronger Communities team has been given to the foundation as part of a grassroots suicide prevention programme.

A police officer who has sought support to help cope with his mental health issues has urged colleagues not to suffer in silence.

Paddy Hammond, 50, a sergeant with Northumbria Police, took part in the National Three Peaks challenge organised by the foundation last weekend.

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He said: “I am a police officer and deal with mental health on a daily basis at work and know it is important to look after your own mental health.

“I have struggled over time and it is good to get out, we have a bond together.

“Getting out into the Yorkshire Dales is unbelievable, there is no mobile phone reception so you can switch off from that and have six or eight hours forgetting about troubles at home or work, it is fantastic.”