‘This is your Everest boys’: Duo taking on mental health charity challenge

Tom Wilson and Johnny Matthews, with Archie Russell (support team), will attempt to climb the height of Mount Everest

During Mental Health Awareness Week, sports men and women have been opening up in a bid to help others in similar situations - and the rugby players behind Support & Offload want to create a safe space for people to talk about their own issues going forward.

And, as the idea grows and develops, two members of the Support & Offload team are taking on a charity challenge this weekend to raise vital funds.

Boroughmuir Bears Super6 scrum-half Tom Wilson and friend Johnny Matthews, the 26-year-old Glasgow Warriors hooker, will be attempting to climb the equivalent height of Mount Everest in under 24 hours.

They will be completing the challenge using the stairs at Boroughmuir’s Meggetland pavilion and it means the boys will be taking on around 2600 flights of stairs.

It will all start at midnight on Friday evening and they will spend the whole of Saturday tackling 110 flights of stairs per hour which equates to two flights of stairs per minute.

They will be adhering to current social distancing guidelines and will have Archie Russell (Boroughmuir Bears) on hand as a support team while other teammates and friends of the duo have promised to take part in a section of the challenge at various times via video link from their own homes.

“It is going to be a tough challenge, but one that we are both very focused on and we want to raise awareness for Support & Offload and what we are trying to achieve,” Wilson told TRU.

“A few years ago when I was at university, I had my own experiences with anxiety. I was missing deadlines, I didn’t want to see my friends and it was not a nice time.

“I had a wonderfully supportive family around me to help me through that period, but one of the other main factors in me overcoming those issues was using sport and exercise as a vehicle.

“It made me realise how important it is for your mental health to keep fit and active and also made me realise just how good it is to be a part of a team environment where individuals feel that they can share things without being judged.

“The close support network at Heriot’s at the time was pivotal in helping me combat my issues and we want to encourage all sports men and women who are part of teams or squads to lean on their club mates when times get tough.

“It doesn’t always have to be a serious, sit down chat with one other person, it can just be getting involved with the banter within the group to take your mind off things.

“The most important thing to realise is that you are not alone through anything, people want to help, especially your mates.”

What makes Support & Offload different?

The space the Support & Offload team are creating will be a casual safe space.

Wilson, who first came up with the premise for Support & Offload after a chat with Bears’ team mate Jack Steele, continued: “We are not professionals, we are not therapists, but we are committed to providing a platform for those who are struggling to feel comfortable asking for help, by connecting individuals to mental health professionals and connecting on a personal level.

“We are a local and accessible charitable organisation in Scotland who want to educate, communicate with and connect all those in need to support networks through the provision of sport and exercise.

“One of the main stigmas surrounding mental health is the misconception that opening up about your own personal struggles will be perceived as weakness.

“It can be daunting for someone who is suffering to have the courage to talk about their own mental wellbeing.

“The relationships you can create with one another in a sporting setting can help you navigate through the tough times in your life and provide you with a support network that you can call upon in times of need.

“At Support & Offload, we want to incorporate this sense of togetherness within our network.”

Normalising the conversation regarding mental health

The funds raised from this weekend’s challenge will allow Wilson, Matthews and the team to arrange gatherings in the form of coffee evenings, recreational activities and group exercise sessions.

They believe that by breaking down nervous barriers through sport and exercise, a space can be created where people feel comfortable discussing their problems. 

“The money raised from the Everest challenge will be used to help fund our team members through a mental health first aid course too,” Wilson said.

“We are also currently in the process of creating workplace and school workshops to deliver to the community showcasing the benefits sport and exercise can have on our mental wellbeing.

“By creating these support networks, we aim to be able to bring together people from all around our local communities, in the hope of normalising the conversation regarding mental health.”

To follow the boys and their challenge visit instagram.com/supportandoffload/ while you can also find the link there to donate