The Final Total... And What I Learned While Raising It

Having run my 5k, swum a mile in Loch Lomond, abseiled from the Forth Rail Bridge, gathered up all the loose change and final donations.. It's safe to say my fundraising adventure is officially done. 

Thanks to all my kind and generous sponsors, I managed to raise a fantastic £1140 for the Scottish Association for Mental Health. Having originally set out to raise £500, I am beyond delighted with this total and grateful to every last person who contributed.

I've frequently said throughout this process that I knew the money would be put to good use, but the charity published figures just last week that highlight, in very real terms, the difference that fundraisers have enabled them to make. In 2015 alone, SAMH: trained 497 people in suicide prevention skills; provided mental health education sessions to more than 1300 young people; gave direct support to some 200 people struggling with suicidal feelings; gathered more than 2000 responses to the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill 2015; and founded 24 anti-stigma campaigns throughout Scotland. And that's just a small snapshot of the work that they do!

That's a very significant contribution to Scotland's mental health. As a little team, Christy, Gordon, Gemma and I raised a combined total of £2327 and I'm so proud of the fact that we were able, in some small way, to support their work.

Scottish Association for Mental Health Forth Bridge abseil

The fundraising was obviously the key factor in this whole endeavour, but I appreciated these challenges for a bunch of other reasons too. I wasn't in a very good place when I first began dreaming this project up. It was New Year and things were pretty dark. I needed a reason to pick myself up and get searching for the light again - something to bring a little purpose to 2015.

It turned out to be just the thing I needed. On many occasions throughout this year, it's been a focus for my attention; an oft-needed kick up the bum; and something of a learning experience as well.

Here are just a few of the things it taught me..


#1. I Am Queen of the Underestimation

When I set my targets for these challenges, I thought I was aiming pretty high. I thought £500 was a pie-in-the-sky kind of total, because who would possibly want to sponsor me? I thought that running 5km would be a real struggle because I was oh-so-unfit-and-unhealthy, and what else could I ever be?

I quickly learned that my fitness levels were a good bit higher than I'd imagined and it wasn't all that long before I'd mastered 5 and moved on to 10, 16 and 21k. By the time Colour Me Rad came around, 5km felt a little bit silly. Similarly, people were way more generous than I had reckoned on and they donated the £500 before I'd ever tackled challenge two.

It was a prime example of the way in which we negatively predict other people's responses.. and how, sometimes, we get them completely wrong. Likewise, it was an illustration of the extent to which we can underestimate our own abilities and yet accept those estimates as though they're fact.

It's easy to set our sights low and never risk disappointment, but sometimes the picture we hold of ourselves can be pretty skewed and it can pay to test that out.

#2. The Importance of Setting New Goals 

Leading nicely on from that, it seemed to teach me just how important small goals can be - how motivating it is to have something to aim for and concentrate my efforts on. More than that, it pushed me to keep on setting new goals once I'd successfully accomplished each one. 

It's important to acknowledge our successes and pause to give ourselves a pat on the back (a separate lesson that I'm still trying to learn!), but we don't always have to stop and sit still in that. If we've managed to climb steps A and B, what's stopping us reaching out for step C as well? I managed to apply that repeatedly when it came to running and I tested it out again when I entertained the idea of aiming for £1000.

In all of these instances, setting new goals paid off. If only I could learn from that and apply it to the rest of my world!

#3. Everyone Is Climbing A Different Mountain

In the process of completing these challenges, there were things which proved to be really tough. 

The most difficult things, for me, were probably not the ones you'd expect. Immerse myself in a cold Scottish loch? No problem! Dangle myself from a bridge? Sure! No bother at all!

But ask me to plan my route and accommodation and I'll have a complete emotional meltdown. Speak to me about navigating an unfamiliar venue, figuring out an event's registration process, or dealing with ALL OF THE PEOPLE milling around, and a panic attack is the most likely result.  

These relatively everyday things can often be really big mountains for me and I spend a lot of time beating myself up for struggling with things that I "should" find easy. 

But the truth is we all have mountains - we all have our fears and difficulties - and they take on a different shape and size for everybody. For some people, the height of an abseil would be too much to climb. For others, the darkness of an open water swim would be too big a mountain to overcome. 

I learned that I was investing an awful lot of effort in comparison, berating myself for the shape of my own mountains.. And that things feel so much better when I accept that all of our lives cover a unique terrain and invest my efforts in tackling those challenges and celebrating little victories instead.

#4. People Will Surprise You, Continually

Throughout this whole experience, I've been repeatedly surprised by people's support and generosity. I was often surprised by the people whose names appeared on my fundraising page. I was genuinely taken aback by the size of people's contributions. I was often touched by a the messages of encouragement I received. And I was blown away by the effort some people made to come out and cheer me on.

It's been a bit of a reminder of how poorly we're able to predict another person's actions and how we're not actually capable of reading each other's thoughts. By constantly expecting so little of people, I'm doing a disservice to both them and myself. It turns out that the majority of people are actually pretty nice!

#5. Mental Health Really Does Impact Everybody

And finally, the most obvious lesson of all yet perhaps the most important one. Mental health - and mental illness - really does touch the lives of us all. I've always known that, in theory. I guess this whole experience just planted it a little deeper in reality.

It's something I've observed during hospital admissions, looking around and realising that, as patients, we represent an enormous spectrum of life. Male, female; young, old; poverty stricken, financially wealthy; doctors, students, ministers, full-time parents, unemployed, offshore workers, fishermen, lawyers, baristas, care workers; Scottish, English, American, Italian, Polish, Lithuanian.. I've shared wards with all of these people and more and learned that mental illness really does not discriminate. 

This time, I happened to learn that lesson beyond the hospital walls. Many a person has said to me during the course of these challenges, "Mental health? That's a subject really close to my heart," or, "Good choice - charities like SAMH have really helped me/my friend/my family." 

We're all on a continuum of mental health and well-being, in just the same way that we all sit somewhere on the line between physically healthy and unwell. Whether it's ourselves or those around us, the chances are we all know people who have faced mental health difficulties. 

I've learned that I (and I suspect many others) could do with really grasping and living out that fact: to stop being so ashamed and to start talking about these issues more freely. I suspect we might all be surprised by the conversations that open up...

Fundraising - Team SAMH

To everyone who helped me learn these lessons; who shared a snippet of their stories; who encouraged me throughout the challenges and the preparation; and who donated to a really excellent charity... THANK YOU all.

For more information about SAMH, visit their website at

Post a Comment


  1. What an excellent post! Thanks very much for putting your thoughts down. I think many of us underestimate other people's kindness, and our own abilities. I couldn't agree more that SAMH is an excellent charity to support, and that we should be able to talk more openly about the mountains that each of us have to climb. You're so right, we can't really compare. But we can support each other. Wishing you many blessings in 2016, Laura!

  2. Laura, I appreciate all your efforts in creating awareness of mental health. And with people losing their minds and stressing over pandemics I think it is the need of an hour. I wish I could have volunteered for such a great cause as well, but I always get stuck with teaching my students how to write a dissertation literature. But anyways, this is one of my future goals to take part in such programs that could contribute to society directly.

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