The Walk: Tackling Mental Health By Trekking Around Britain

One in four people are affected by mental health issues. The percentage of sufferers in Britain is more than double that of some European countries, including Italy and Poland.

Of one of these suffers is TEDx talker and marathon runner, Jake Tyler, a mental health advocate who ran and walked 3000 miles around the UK to tackle his depression. This is Jake Tyler’s journey – ‘The Walk Around Britain’.

By The Versed – May, 2018

AS FEATURED ON

 

The Bar

At the age of 30, Jake found ‘the dream job’. He had worked in hospitality his whole life and hit the big time when he was asked to manage a bar in Shoreditch. It was the right time, Jake had managed bars as young as 25 and was ready to run one of London’s busiest places.

However, ‘the dream job’ turned quickly into a nightmare.

“After years of mismanaged stress, I burnt out massively, and what’s the best thing to take the edge of stress? Alcohol. And what’s the best thing to sustain that? Cocaine, and I was using it constantly, you’re playing with fire there”.

Long hours, heavy drinking and zero downtime accelerated Jake’s anxiety, he felt trapped in the bar and couldn’t escape. Afraid to tell anyone what was going on, and afraid to speak out of his suffering, Jake silently went into an inner downward spiral. 

 

A Dangerous Combination

Jake’s depression got such a hold of him that he was dealing with everything in destructive ways; ways which were making him feel worthless, tired, and on occasion, unable to get out of bed for work.

“I was never really sure what it was. And I was also very ashamed that I felt like it as well, because I had no reason to. I had a perfectly great life, there was no real reason for me to feel the way I did.”

Jake’s depression became so bad that suicidal thoughts began to enter his head. Talking at a TEDx talk last October, Jake eluded to the power depression can generate, isolating its victim into a lonely tunnel:.

“Depression had lied and manipulated its way into making me believe ending my life wasn’t just best for me, but also for those close to me”.

With such thoughts entering Jake’s head, his only option was to quit his job and move out of London.

No Place Like Home

Jake quit the bar job and moved back in with his mum in rural Essex where the calmness of the countryside and change from London life left him with a clearer head. He took time to think about his depression rather than drink it away and constantly deflect from questions:

“Saying you’re fine is like putting a plaster over cancer, you’re not dealing with anything.”

Jake began to take the family’s dog on long walks and came to realise the sensation of being outdoors, walking and being active was helping Jake to see colours and to feel good again.

It inspired him to buy a map of the UK with the aim of walking around Britain. He called the journey Black Dog Walks, and it was the start of Jake opening up about his depression and sharing his story.

 

 

The Walk

Jake started in Brighton and continued to walk south-west all along the Jurassic coast, right around Wales and then up to Stoke in five and a half months. The benefits of being outdoors, messages of support and interaction with people on the walk allowed Jake to continually share his story and thoughts, finally opening up about mismanaged stress and lifting the lid on emotions which had been circulating for years.

Thousands of people reached out to Jake on his journey, thanking him and sharing their own stories with him. Jake referred to it as the ‘depression club’ and claims that rather than feeling alone in it, he finally realised there were hundreds of other members.

Jake got as far as Stoke before his body could not go any further. Cold nights and living in a tent for months had taken its toll on him, but he didn’t want to lose the momentum of this feeling. A friend tagged him in a post to run the 2017 London marathon, and get involved in a campaign led by Prince Harry: Mind Over Marathon. Jake jumped at the opportunity and threw himself into training.

Back To London

The idea of coming back to London was daunting for Jake, the place where everything spiraled out of control and left him contemplating suicide. However, training with his running club and taking part in the BBC documentary Mind Over Marathon continued to give Jake the platform he needed to speak up.

He completed the marathon in 2017 and referred to it as the best day of his life; he could close the chapter that nearly took his life from him. After the marathon was over, Jake then prepared for the second half of the walk which included the northern part of Britain.

He finished the walk earlier in the year, all 3000 miles around Britain and was back in London to run the 2018 marathon. He continues to fight his battles, and he continues to have moments of isolation. But what Jake has found is that speaking up helps; speaking to people and sharing experiences can be hugely beneficial.

Jake continues to inspire and encourage others to share their story through his social media channels and podcast: People Are F***ing Awesome. 

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. People like Jake are needed to encourage that saying “I’m fine” is not the right answer.

WATCH Jake’s Documentary Here: