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Nouse interviews mental health fundraisers Dylan Laugharne and Will Gray

The pair talk about the their charitable efforts and past experiences in relation to mental health.

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Image Credit: Doug Sim

Mental health is a significant issue that has grown considerably over the last few years, with many students, and others of our generation, deciding to take action into their own hands. Two such University of York students are Dylan Laugharne and Will Gray, both of whom spoke to Nouse recently about their own charitable efforts in relation to this very important and relevant issue.

With the aim of raising as much money as possible for the mental health charity, Mind, the 2nd year Halifax College pair will attempt to complete the national three peaks challenge. This challenge involves climbing Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in the Lake District, and Snowdon in North Wales, all within a 24 hour period. Nationally recognised as a significant achievement, the three peaks challenge is a physically strenuous task even for experienced and physically fit mountaineers.

Dylan, who unsuccessfully ran for President of YUSU last term, spoke about how often mental health came up as an issue while talking to students during his campaign. He described it as “a mental health pandemic, especially considering the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns.” In the interview, Dylan urged the university and YUSU to take mental health seriously and continue to provide support for those that need it. Will urged everybody to no longer “brush it under the carpet” as an issue of lesser priority.

As a lengthy endurance challenge, a “big factor of course is sleep deprivation” which can have an impact on both physical stamina and one's mental awareness during the later stages of the challenge. Dylan also commented on his own individual concerns about the task at hand, raising the issue of his flat feet, a problem which increases the likelihood of twisting one’s ankle on rough terrain. Despite these issues, both expressed contentment about their own physical fitness levels due to the fact that they have recently been regularly working out, in preparation for the physical demands.

Mind is a charity that is particularly close to the hearts of both Dylan and Will who, gratefully, were willing to share their own past experiences with Nouse. Dylan expressed how motivating a charity like Mind is because it is “helping people like us”. Not only have both suffered from depression themselves, they have also supported family members contemplating suicide. Will described his father as “having to be dragged kicking and screaming” into getting support following a particularly difficult moment in his life. For Will in particular, campaigning is as much about “breaking down the stigma” as it is anything else.

Highlighted in the interview was just how difficult it is talking about mental health. For those that have met Dylan and Will, it is quite clear that they appear, on the outside, as not only happy people but also people who like to have a laugh. Dylan described their humour as a “coping mechanism” and a means to avoid difficult conversations because “nobody questions whether the funny person is okay.” That being said, Dylan did emphasise the fact that mental health is something that “really must be talked about” so “people no longer suffer in silence.”

Both wanted to stress that they are by no means mental health professionals but they were willing to share the things that they have done to minimise the impact of mental health difficulties. Dylan spoke about the positive impact of attending the gym on a regular basis as it is something that they have found to have had a really positive impact. However, they both recognised that different things can help different people and they urged anyone “just to do what you enjoy because if it works, it works”. Will, based upon his own experiences, emphasised the importance of acceptance, saying  that “there is no shame in admitting that there is an issue.”

If you wish to donate to this very good course, Mind’s website can be accessed at Home - Mind and the following link will send you through to Dylan and Will’s just giving page- Dylan Laugharne is fundraising for Mind (justgiving.com). For those that have already donated, the pair wanted to take the interview as an opportunity to say thank you. As Will mentioned in the interview “every donation pushes us forward” as “we feel accountable to everybody who has been kind enough to donate.” Currently, they have raised £770, which is a significant way towards their target of £1000. If you require any support in regards to mental health, the University’s facilities can be accessed at- Open Door - Open Door, The University of York.

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