HOW TRAVEL CAN HELP IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH
Tom Madders is campaigns director at YoungMinds, which supports parents who are concerned about the mental health of their children. He says: “Taking time out of your normal routine, trying new things and setting yourself new challenges can help you get perspective on how you are feeling and how to take care of yourself.
“Being exposed to other ways of life can also build empathy towards others. But know your boundaries. Finding yourself in an unfamiliar environment without your normal support network around you can be stressful.”
For information and advice about looking after yourself, see youngminds. org.uk/find-help
For general information about Young Minds, see youngminds.org.uk.
To make a donation to this year’s Telegraph Christmas Appeal, see the panel below. offered the chance to work with elephants, an animal I love, on a conservation programme.
I’d never been away on my own before, so it was scary, but I soon felt like part of the group. I was there for four weeks, but you can stay just one week, so new people were coming and going all the time. My job was to help collect data on eight elephants near Huay Pakoot, where we were based.
Every day we’d hike out into the rainforest to find them, which could take hours, but there was a lot of camaraderie and bonding between the volunteers and the Thai staff. What really struck me, too, was that I never saw anyone local who didn’t have a smile on their face. The villagers would be working hard every day, farming, and yet they still found life good. It made me realise we don’t have a leg to stand on back home, as far as complaining goes – yet so many of us are miserable. These people were satisfied with very little.
I got into a routine every morning of going to a little café run by one of the villagers. I’d get there just as the sun rose and have my coffee lying in a hammock on his deck, overlooking a valley. It was my bit of me-time every day, and I’d look at the view and feel like I didn’t have a care in the world.
Making friends helped. Several volunteers based in the UK have come to Liverpool to visit, and I’m off to Northern Ireland soon to meet up with another guy. The experience helped clear my head and made me realise I don’t have it that bad – so I’m going back to Thailand after Christmas.
I think mental health issues should be discussed more openly at school, so young people know where they can go for help. I’m currently liaising with government authorities to try to get people to come and talk to the kids at my school. I now feel 100 per cent happier, and a lot more stable.
Going away has had a profound effect on who I am, and how I feel.”
Further information: gvi.co.uk.