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Sunday, 15 December 2019
A GROUP of friends from Henley is taking part in the Thames Path Challenge this weekend in support of a local mental health charity.
Nicky Andrews will tackle the 100km route from London to Henley with Alessio Baldassarri, Tom Lovett and Sophie Majer while her son Charlie, 14, will walk the last part.
The quartet, who have called themselves Team Famous Four Point Five, are raising money for Riverside Counselling in Henley as each one has either fought a mental illness or helped someone who has. They hope to raise £5,000.
Mrs Andrews said: “My mental health problem is something I have struggled to admit to, especially to those outside my close circle, but I’m appreciating the more I talk, the more people admit they too have struggled at some point. If there is a day and age for mental health to lose the taboo, it’s now.”
She was formally diagnosed with clinical depression two years ago.
She started using Riverside in May and says it has made a big difference to her life.
Mrs Andrews said: “I have started on this journey with them and know I’ll be with them for some time yet. It’s a roller-coaster ride but I’m trying to stay focused on the love and support my family and friends are giving me to deal with the challenges therapy brings.
“I cannot emphasise enough how much I value the support this little local charity has given me. Unfortunately, with government cutbacks on funding and grants, they are still struggling to survive.”
The foursome will be among more than 2,000 people taking part in the challenge, which begins tomorrow (Saturday) and finishes at Mill Meadows in Henley on Sunday.
Charlie, who will join them for the final 25km, said: “Mum has been quite ill with depression and I know that she is getting help with the charity we are walking for.
“I hate seeing her when she’s ill but understand that one day she will be better, be her old self, and love life again.”
Mrs Majer, who has known Mrs Andrews for 30 years, was diagnosed with clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in 2014. She says she understands the importance of counselling and it was a “no-brainer” to help her friend raise funds.
Mrs Majer said: “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the dedication and the types of therapy these services provide.
“Having received therapy and come through the other side, I have the mindset to realise that I had made the mistake of not dealing with it correctly and sooner.”
Mr Baldassarri, a hairdresser, says he has developed an ability to spot when clients are struggling with their mental health.
He said: “I have seen first-hand that people from all walks of life can be affected. Being there to listen is important but, more importantly, charities like Riverside offer the professional support that people need.”
Mr Lovett, an electrician, said: “I’ve decided to walk for Riverside because of the support they’ve provided a dear friend. We are fortunate to have a charity that ensures everyone can get the help they need, no matter their financial standing.”
Riverside, which was established in 1989, provides affordable counselling and psychotherapy to adults and young people aged 12 and above who live in Henley and the surrounding area.
The charity says it has seen a 111 per cent increase in the number of enquiries in the last year.
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