Thursday, 18 July 2024
UK Charity Week 2024 - Sponsored by Sinclair Method UK
Thursday, 18 July 2024

Essex veteran joins friend’s Chilterns walk during Suicide Awareness Week

An Essex veteran, who has been supported by Help for Heroes, is to ‘piggyback’ a friend’s fundraising walk in the Chilterns, which will now raise money for two charities.

Project manager Greg Husbands, 48, from Stansted, and charity co-founder Paul Chambers, 54, from Henlow, Beds, will walk 79 miles across the Chilterns in five days, next month, in recognition of the average of 79 men who take their own life on a weekly basis in England.

Husbands is raising funds for Armed Forces charity Help for Heroes, while Chambers is walking for a charity he helped found – PoetsIN – created for people struggling with their mental health, by two poets who have also struggled.

The walk coincides with Suicide Awareness Week (10-16 September) and the two friends both want to use their challenge to remove the stigma there often is around mental health and the conversations about it.

Husbands spent eight years with the Royal Engineers, including four-and-a-half at 33 Engr Regt EOD – in bomb disposal. He was medically downgraded, couldn’t go on tour or be promoted, and decided to leave the service, in 2001, through a medical discharge. He moved into project management, working globally in the corporate world. But his issues did not end there.

In 2005, he became one of the youngest people in the country to have two false hips, after being diagnosed with early-onset arthritis. He has since been diagnosed with a number of other chronic degenerative muscular skeleton issues in the neck and shoulders, which result in significant life issues both physically and mentally.

He explained:

“I had a breakdown at the last year, really not being able to function or cope. It reached a nadir when I spoke to my family about how I was feeling and thought ‘What do I do next?’

“I contacted Help for Heroes. I was put in touch with the recovery college, did the assessment, and came out with a plan of action: going through the CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) programme and some of the recovery courses.

“It didn’t just help me; it gave me a network and community of like-minded people to go and talk to. It was a safe space and a cathartic experience. It’s really well-thought-out and well-run programme of activities.

“It added to my skill set of resilience. How to manage my pain; how to talk to my family when I’m grumpy – because I’m in pain; how to try to level out the pain cycles; and to try to ensure it doesn’t impact those around you so much.”

He continued:

“I also got in touch with Paul again to continue that journey. It’s given me purpose; it’s something I’m passionate about now, helping other people. We need to spread that knowledge – whether it’s to veterans or non-veterans.

“Both Paul and I know too many people who have died by suicide, and both have had our struggles. When I think back to last year, I don’t think I was suicidal, but I was at a point where I didn’t know how I was going to go on; so I can quite easily see how, to some people, that is ‘I can’t be here anymore’.

“The thing that really grounded me was my family. I just really couldn’t see past the impact on them. It might be easy for me because I’d gone, but the impact on others is astronomical. If raising the awareness reaches and helps just one person, then we’ve won.”

Chambers and Sammie Adams founded PoetsIN in 2017, after having their own struggles, which saw him plan to take his life on more than one occasion.

He explained:

“The walk was my idea. Initially, I was going to do it on my own, but I’m glad I’m not, now. I just wanted to do a challenge. It’s been brewing in me for quite a while. As Greg said, we’ve lost too many friends.

“There are a lot of stats out there, but the Office for National Statistics data said that 79 men a week, by quarter three 2022, were choosing to take their lives. And, although this isn’t specifically about men’s mental health, that figure worked well for the challenge. Including the women’s figure, it was 100; but I didn’t want to do 100 miles! It’s as simple as that,” he smiled.

“I’ve had suicidal thoughts; I’ve planned to take my life more than once. But I chose to end my life as it was and make changes; to learn about myself; build up resilience; and build up the toolkit and the armoury.

“I’ve been in very different battles, but I wear them with pride. Greg and I have spoken very openly about my addictions, my mental illnesses, all of my dark struggles. Greg’s bringing his dog, Stanley, and I’m bringing demons,” he smiled again.

While he knows the Chilterns will provide a tough challenge, Husbands is keen to ensure it’s just the beginning of another journey.

He said:

“I want to raise shed loads of cash because I want to talk to people, the more the merrier. Make them aware. I’d also love to follow this path in some way; I don’t want this to be a one-off.”

PoetsIN empowers individuals through sharing its founders’ own experiences with mental ill-health, provides wellbeing services for anyone wanting to learn how to keep their mind healthy, and educates communities on all things creativity and mental health.

Help for Heroes champions the Armed Forces community and helps them live well after service. The charity helps them, and their families, to recover and get on with their lives. It has already supported more than 30,000 people and won’t stop until every veteran gets the support they deserve.

The Charity supports veterans, and their families, from any branch of the UK military – regulars or reserves – irrespective of length or place of service, and locally embedded civilians (and their families) who worked alongside our Armed Forces.

To sponsor Greg Husbands in support of Help for Heroes, please visit: bit.ly/Greg79. To support Paul Chambers and PoetsIN, please visit bit.ly/PoetsIN. To get support, visit helpforheroes.org.uk or PoetsIN.

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