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My name is Elaine Dardis and this year I am challenging myself to summit Kilimanjaro.

During the lockdown, my biggest fear was for my mental health. The fear of the unknown, the loss of my freedom and the fear of getting sick. It was during this time that I returned to sport, walking, hiking and even a bit of running, but it was also during the pandemic that I discovered I am a lot stronger than I ever thought I was and for some reason gave myself the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro!

I am lucky that I live at the foot of the Dublin mountains which allowed me the freedom to roam the hills and give my head space. As I worked through the whole pandemic it was stressful and anxious time. Some people were less fortunate and lost everything from loved ones to their jobs and some even lost their lives. These were very dark times for some people, and I was glad to have the mental strength to keep going, exercise was my medicine.
This year is my 23rd anniversary surviving suicide, I celebrate life and not my death.
I am glad to say that I get to celebrate life and have done so over the years. I am alive today because I have amazing support from those that genuinely care and understand me, my parents, and my amazing Doctor.

The stigma 25 years ago was a lot more than it is now and it was difficult to open up and not be seen as ‘mad’. it is still incredibly hard for people who suffer with their mental health to open up and sometimes we do not know who we can trust. I wish SOS had been around when I was younger. The help and support they give to those who suffer and struggle with their mental health is fantastic. The tools and resources they give to help get through the darkness, is definitely required in this world.

Climbing Kilimanjaro is a challenge to myself, a personal goal to achieve something.
I still get days where I cannot get going or my anxiety gets the better of me, but now I know how to deal with it and not to always let it win.
Those are the days I phone a friend or chat to my dad. With the right support we can get better.

To support Elaine on her journey to climb Kilimanjaro – please click here