Four men are taking on a gruelling 250-mile cycling challenge to help encourage others to speak about mental health.
Calym Tapsell, 24, Jordan Cooper, Ross Carter, both 22, and 27-year-old Declan Wood will be cycling along the North East 250 route in June.
Their journey will take them along the rugged north-east coast before they head into the spectacular mountain passes of the Cairngorms National Park.
They’re fundraising for the charity Mental Health Aberdeen after realising how much lockdown affected friends and family.
And they’ve dedicated their fundraiser to friend Bradley Allan, a mental health campaigner who died earlier this month.
Calym, of Inverurie, said he found lockdown difficult after ending up home alone on furlough for five months when businesses were forced to close.
The hospitality worker said: “It was so sudden the lockdown. I struggled quite a bit. I stay on my own and so do most of my friends, we couldn’t really do anything or see anyone because we all stay more than five miles apart.
“Travelling to see anyone wasn’t on the cards. You could go outside for walks and runs but there’s only so many you can do in a day.
“It’s a big change. Not seeing people and not having anything to look forward to and not knowing when things will go back to normal.”
Calym and his three friends, who live in Aberdeen, decided to get bikes in February to help them get more active.
He added: “Cycling is completely new to us, we were doing this for mental health and when our friend passed away we dedicated it to him.
“He campaigned all his life for mental health.”
‘Getting a bike was one of the best decisions I ever made’
Landscape gardener, Jordan, 22, said: “It all started off that it was going to be a short cycle then we thought why don’t we just do a bigger one for charity.
“We thought because of lockdown it would be a good idea to get ourselves some bikes and get more active.
“And it’s one of the best decisions I ever made, I’m out on it all the time now!
“I go out four or five times a week. I cycle to work as well. As I’ve progressed through the weeks I’ve been going longer distances.
“To start with it was really hard but it’s much easier now. I love going out in the fresh air. We’ve been out on the country roads, it’s been good fun.”
‘Mental health is a really serious issue just now’
Jordan and his friends have also been busy preparing with regular Spin classes at their local gyms.
And he urged anyone suffering with their mental health to speak to someone, whether it’s friends, family or a professional.
He said: “Mental health is a really serious issue just now.
“It’s not been a nice time. Thankfully I wasn’t too bad because I was working all the time but I’ve seen the effect on family and friends.
“It’s been sad seeing it affect everyone else, it’s not normal.
“A lot of men are scared to speak out. They get the impression they are men and have to be strong, independent guys. But that’s not really the case, you should speak out if you’re going through something.
“It doesn’t matter what you’re going through it’s best to speak out and get help rather than fight these battles yourself.”
The men have already raised more than £700 for the charity.
Graeme Kinghorn, chief executive of Mental Health Aberdeen, said: “The fundraising that Declan, Ross, Calym and Jordan are doing on behalf of MHA is another example of local people recognising the vital services that we provide.
“All the money raised goes directly into frontline counselling services and as we emerge from lockdown the challenges are different for each and every one of us.
“It is a fact that MHA simply could not function without support like this, so we would encourage as many people as possible to share their story, raise awareness and contribute where you can.”
Donations can be made to the fundraiser by visiting https://bit.ly/3f7eETP
The Mental Health Aberdeen charity can be contacted on 01224 573892