HOW TRAVEL CAN HELP IM­PROVE MENTAL HEALTH

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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