Mental health warrior walks 150km’s to stamp out stigma
EVERY morning before the sunrise, Kingaroy local Jennifer Bayldon steps onto the rail trail and walks for hours in the name of destigmatising mental health and bringing more support to country towns.
Diving into the Black Dog Institutes One Foot Forward challenge, Ms Bayldon smashed her initial 100km goal within a week to raise awareness of the dilapidating, yet often unacknowledged, illnesses that torment the minds of 1 in 5 Australian's in any given year.
"I suffer from a major depressive disorder, anxiety, and anorexia, and there's very little support in our town," Ms Bayldon said.
"If you've got a broken leg in a cast, people will ask you 'how are you going' and 'when's the cast coming off', but if you have depression, it's not as accepted."
With 114km under her belt, Ms Bayldon will continue to increase her goal as she reaches each new milestone. The 150km mark is next in her sights.
After first seeing the name of the Black Dog Institutes October challenge, Ms Bayldon was immediately drawn the concept - One Foot Forward.
"All you've got to do is take that first step. It doesn't have to be a physical first step. It could be making that phone call to make a doctors appointment. It could be to a friend, to tell them you're not doing well."
She said even if you're not ready to communicate your struggle to a trusted friend or professional, even just gardening, practising some arts and craft, or baking a batch of cookies can make all the difference.
"You're doing something that gets your mind off what you're going through, and you've got something great at the end to eat!"
One Foot Forward is a free virtual walking event, which aims to show people battling from mental illness we're all in this together, and encourages people to take that first step toward recovery.
Ms Bayldon said this message is particularly important in rural towns, like Kingaroy, which have high rates of mental illness but fewer resources to assist those who need help.
"One Foot Forward is raising money for research, for support, for resources, for anyone who is needing help. It helps you get in touch with lifeline, if you're feeling suicidal or just feeling really bad," she said.
"It might be the hardest thing you do, taking that one step outside, but if you can get that done, maybe the next day you can take a few more steps. That's what I want everyone to know - that you can get to a place where you can be happy."
"That doesn't mean you're never going to suffer depression again, but enjoy the times when you're well and remember what you can get back to."
Particularly in such a challenging year for mental health, Ms Bayldon said it more important than ever to actively seek happiness and beauty in everyday life. She achieve this by taking photographs on her walks.
"I like to capture something everyday that is beautiful. We live in a great place in Kingaroy."
"Even a raindrop on the reeds, I see things like that. I see the little flowers on the ground. I look at a thistle a think what a good photo that would make."
"I enjoy taking them and my friends enjoy seeing the photo's I post of Facebook."
If you'd like to contribute to Ms Bayldon's cause, you can donate HERE.