“For me, there’s nothing more important than raising awareness of mental health,” says a fund-raising Cambridgeshire inspector who is preparing to take on a 237-mile charity challenge four years after being diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Paul Law and his colleague, Detective Sergeant Scott Lloyd, will be travelling – via a combination of bike and foot – from the lowest point in the UK, in Holme Fen, to one of the highest, the summit of Mount Snowdon.
The pair are taking on the challenge, which they have appropriately named ‘The Highs and Lows’, to raise money for a local charity, as well as fight the stigma around mental health. The event will kick-off this Friday (20 May).
“Everyone you talk to has some sort of experience of a mental health challenge these days – whether it’s professionally, or personally, especially since the pandemic. It’s incredibly important we talk about it, and encourage our loved ones to open up,” says Paul, whose PTSD diagnosis followed years of witnessing trauma as a police officer in London, working for both the Metropolitan and British Transport Police.
“If what we’re doing will help just save one life, then everything we’re doing is worth it.”
He explained that he hopes that the challenge will also encourage others to get out and exercise, as he believes keeping active is one of the best forms of medicine for our mental health.
“For me, keeping active is essential to looking after my mental health and wellbeing. After being diagnosed with PTSD, for a good couple of months I didn’t do anything at all. Then gradually, I started to get out and walk my dog every day, and almost instantly I reaped the benefits of getting some fresh air.
“Since then, I’ve just gone from strength to strength.”
Paul and Scott will be joined by two others during the initial part of the three-day challenge, which will see them cycle from Holme Fen, which is a mile south of Yaxley and 23ft below sea level, to Llanberis, at the foot of Snowdon.
From there, they will be joined by around 20 serving officers including Cambridgeshire Police Chief Constable Nick Dean as they climb the 3,560 ft peak of the Welsh mountain.
“We really wanted to encourage as many of our colleagues to take part as possible. A lot of them have their own story to tell when it comes to mental health, with many facing their own challenges,” explained Paul.
“As soon as we asked if anyone wanted to join us, the Chief Constable asked if he could come along, which is massive. To be joined by him and so many of our peers, who are also raising money and awareness, is amazing.”
The challenge is designed to encapsulate the five well-known steps to improving your mental health and wellbeing, which are: connecting with people, keeping active, learning new skills, giving to others and paying attention to the present moment.
“We want to encourage others to open up and show people that it’s OK, not to be OK,” added 44-year-old Paul, who is a father of two.
“It’s important for my children to know what I’m doing and to feel comfortable talking about how they’re feeling too. It’s a big deal for me to show my kids that it’s alright to worry and feel anxious at times.
“I’m doing this to inspire my children, too.”
The challenge is raising money for Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and South Lincolnshire (CPSL) mental health charity, Mind.
More specifically, they want to contribute to the running of ‘The Sanctuaries’, which are run by CPSL Mind and based across Cambridge and Peterborough, providing a safe and warm place for those facing a mental health crisis.
“Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have vital mental health support from charities and organisations,” said Paul.
“I needed them, there and then. I know what it’s like to be facing a mental health crisis. I contemplated suicide, I even wrote a suicide note.
“Having resources like The Sanctuaries available are so incredibly important – without them, more people will continue taking their own lives or suffering in silence.”
Paul explained that as officers, they are seeing the impact of mental health more and more, especially while serving on the frontline.
“I would say around 50 per cent of the calls we get are now to do with mental health – and they’re genuine calls from people in crisis,” he added.
“Without facilities like The Sanctuaries, where can they go when they need help?
“It’s crucial that we keep raising awareness and keep raising money, because mental health is affecting everyone around us.”
To support Paul and Scott donate to their JustGiving Page.