A Bideford man is opening up about mental health and encouraging others to do the same as he prepares for a cross-continental bike ride.
Tobias Kennedy-Matthews is planning to cycle from Canterbury to Rome next year with friend Andy Baker to raise money for North Devon charity Clarity, as well as the Lions Barber Collective and Mind.
This Wednesday, October 10 is World Mental Health Day and Tobias hopes his story will help others.
The 29-year-old was inspired to raise money after finding out someone he knew had taken their life. The announcement of the ride came in an open letter in which Tobias opened up about his struggles with anxiety and his mental health, and he was left ‘overwhelmed’ by the response he had.
“Within a day I had almost 100 private messages on Facebook, many from strangers, thanking me for sharing something so personal,” said Tobias.
“I felt that just raising money wasn’t enough. Money isn’t the answer to mental health; money just helps fund the services
“I was afraid of being laughed at, people thinking I was an attention seeker and people just plain not believing me, but I didn’t get one single feeling like that from anyone, out of everyone that read it.
“It was important for me to try and start a conversation about mental health because that’s what truly helps.
“The first step is standing up and admitting to yourself that you’re suffering, and when you realise who else around you is it’s so relieving.”
Tobias and Andy are cycling 100 miles a week at the moment, and meeting up regularly to try and cover that distance over a weekend.
Tobias planned the route by learning Italian, translating the walking route from a book and plotting a bike-friendly passage, and has found cycling to be a something of a release.
“I’ve found something really special for me in cycling,” said Tobias.
“It helps me to let go and it gives my mind a kind of freedom that so many others get from other things.
“The fitter and healthier my body feels, it seems the healthier my mind feels. The organisation part helps give me focus too.”