Ian Downes, 53
“Hiking has helped my fitness and given me a sense of achievement and accomplishment.”
My son Calum took his life when he was only 19 years old, three years ago.
The inquest resulted in an open verdict but I have to conclude that he chose to take his own life. In his case, we weren’t aware that he had any mental health problems. He’d never had any counselling or received support for his mental health that we were aware of.
There is a category of person that I believe lives with an undiagnosed mental health problem – I’m not sure how we resolve that. We put lots of focus on people who have been diagnosed, or are already being treated, but perhaps not enough on those who don’t yet know if they have a mental health problem.
As a family we’ve raised lots of money for Mind and other charities. We wanted to do something for a charity that was helping people with mental health problems, but also to promote awareness and campaigning. Whilst Calum was 19, mental health is something that affects people across a spectrum of ages and backgrounds. We felt Mind was the best charity for us to associate our efforts with.
I did Mind Hike in the Lake District in September 2017, and Mind Hike Eden Project in Cromwell in September 2018. The preparation gave me a focus and a drive. It also helped me, my family and friends and gave us the opportunity to spend quality time together while we trained.
I work in London so I walk around London a lot – it gave me a reason to get off the tube and start walking. I grew up in London so I’ve been able to explore the city a bit more and to take photographs. I like to showcase London to other people and encourage them to walk too.
Hiking has helped my physical fitness and given me a sense of achievement and accomplishment. If you can in a tiny way inspire other people, that’s a good thing and it makes me feel better.