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First of all I want to say that I never wanted to do this challenge!
That might seem like a weird thing to say but it’s true. I was quite happy living in ignorance of the mental health problems that can indiscriminately take control of anyone’s life at any time. My journey to this challenge was through loss and facing 24 gigs in 24 locations in 24 hours, was my way of handling and channelling my grief, my guilt, my sadness into something positive in memory of our loved ones who have lost their battle. Those losses, for me, were a wake up call that have led to education, empathy and the chance to create awareness and prevention opportunities, first through 24in24 and now in my role within the Complex Bereavement Service of Norfolk and Waveney Mind.
The 24 gigs in 24 hours challenge was something that seemed so bonkers that it absolutely had to work! There have been so many charitable endeavours in the area, I knew I needed to find something that would set this challenge apart and create a real buzz in the local community. It did exactly that with press coming from all over Norfolk. Local printed press, BBC Radio and several blogs and podcasts were soon rallying to push the planning forward and with every piece of press there were new donations and new venues coming on board. I found the response from the venues heartwarming, with many staff sharing their own stories around mental health. Each of those stories only reinforced the reasons for me to take on the challenge and keep the campaign growing. Soon all 24 venues were filled and I was ready to set off.
When planning I maybe should have considered that December, being the month of Christmas, is by definition usually pretty cold! The shock of sub zero temperatures really added to the term “challenge”, especially when the mercury dipped to -6. As I attended Park Run in King’s Lynn’s ‘Walks’, tiny icicles formed in my beard in what can only be described as a Ranulph Fiennes-esque, polar-explorer-look-a-like low point. Although my extremities remained cold, my insides were warmed by the outpouring of love and support from everyone I met along the way. From Tesco staff at the end of a long Christmas period night shift, a solitary 3am gym goer, the ever-enthusiastic gang at Captain Fawcett’s, drunken revellers on Norfolk Street and even the confused elderly onlookers in the Marks and Sparks cafe. Those are the people that kept me pushing on and if you were there showing your support I cannot thank you enough.
There are also some points that have slipped from my mind. There was a picture in the paper of me dancing with 2 elves with a boombox. I can honestly say I have no recollection of this whatsoever and if it wasn’t for photographic evidence I would tell you that it must have been some sort of sleep deprivation induced hallucination.
There are some points that are so vivid that I can remember every detail. One of these was the first of 2 occasions I broke down in tears, sitting on the step of Ali and Ian’s camper van. I was thanking them for their contribution and enthusiasm as one of the very first “venues” to sign up. They had assembled a group with people travelling from Cambridge and beyond for a 4 song set in bitter coldness. It was an hour of what my son would call “dragon breath” (that thing that happens when it’s cold and you breath) hugs, laughter and badly played guitar thanks to the frozen fingers.
I learnt a lot in those 24 hours. I realised how we can find strength and resolve, especially at the bottom of a large coffee. I learnt about human connection and how mental health struggles are a commonality we all share. I also learnt that if you plan to stay up for 24 hours you should probably book the day off work before hand.
Since completing the 24 gigs challenge and raising over £2500 for Norfolk and Waveney Mind I have been invited back to BBC Radio Norfolk to talk about mental health, been featured in several press articles but the biggest accolade of all is being nominated as ‘Fundraiser of the Year’ in the Your Local Paper ‘Local Hero Awards’. The ceremony takes place on 26th April but no matter the outcome it feels like mental health awareness is the real winner.
The fundraising doesn’t stop though as the Complex Bereavement Team have signed up for the Norfolk and Waveney Mind Skydive this July. You can sponsor the team
More challenges will follow… but in reflection whatever happens next will be in summer or indoors…
- Jay Harrison, Suicide Prevention Facilitator
If you would like to see more about Jay's 24in24 challenge you can watch his vlogs here:
Part 1 - Watch
Part 2 - Watch
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