Don't lose hope - waking the county up to mental health one active challenge at a time
This new year, as we all already face up to our own new challenges, it’s time for an opportune introduction. Meet Dominic Brister - one of our Active Achievement Award shortlisters in the 2023 Lincolnshire Sport & Physical Activity Awards.
As we spoke, Dominic, among many others, was supporting his community through the flooding crisis that hit countless parts of the UK. Residents just 3 miles down the road from where Dominic is based in Bourne were totally cut off, 2-3ft under water and suffering losses that hit businesses and families to the score of hundreds of thousands. He has managed to coordinate some much-needed items to help with the cleanup, including amazing donations from local companies.
Now working full-time at Don’t Lose Hope, a charity in the south of Lincolnshire that provides therapeutic and emotional support set up by Dominic’s wife Nicola in 2018, Dominic and a team of more than 100 volunteers work constantly within the community delivering help and support that far exceeds the charity’s original purpose.
Mental Health Comes in all Shapes and Sizes
“If people are struggling with other things in their lives, their mental health suffers too. That’s why we do our best 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” explained Dominic. It’s a simple principle, far from rocket science, but if more of us adopted the attitude of Dominic, Nicola and the team we could dramatically see our suicide rates and mental health statistics decrease across the county.
“All we are trying to do is get more people talking. That’s it. You don’t have to be in a counselling room – if that works for you, great, the team at Don’t Lose Hope facilitates 200 counselling sessions a week – but that isn’t all there is to mental health support.”
While the number of counsellors working at the charity has hugely increased in the last five years – taking the total number of qualified counsellors to almost 30 – there is, as Dominic quite rightly points out, much more to finding the right kind of support an individual may need. And this is where activity comes in.
Activity Equals Opportunity
“Part of Men’s Shed UK, we are the most open place for those struggling in the country. Across the café, the garden, the shed, the shop, the therapy rooms and the walking groups, 100+ volunteers dedicate themselves to the cause every week; it’s mind-boggling how quickly Don’t Lose Hope has grown,” continued Dominic
“It is quite humbling but very tough in equal measure. As a registered charity, we are reliant on these volunteers and fundraising efforts. Which is quite often where I come into things! Part of my inspiration to begin fundraising came from the Outward Bound Trust and seeing Eddie Izzard complete 30 marathons in 30 days. I’m a firm believer in the notion that the body will do what the brain says. I deliberately don’t train, hoping that my body will just keep doing what it’s told.”
Having completed two 24-hour walks in the last couple of years, a 156-mile walk last year which took Dominic 54 hours, and three huge 700-mile+ bike rides completed by his father, Peter, the duo has raised around £60,000 for Don’t Lose Hope in just the last few years.
But it isn’t just Eddie Izzard that serves as inspiration and drive for the determined pair.
“So, following the death of my younger brother Edward in 2018 due to an undiagnosed heart condition, I and my father have done something physical every year to honour Ed and to raise awareness for mental health, in particular men’s mental health,” revealed Dominic.
“During the 156-mile walk – the distance from Ed's old flat in Warrington, straight back to Bourne - people from across the country came out, joined me and shared their mental health stories as I was walking. Sleep deprivation and exhausted limbs were very real but knowing that I was helping to get people talking was amazing.”
Hear from Dom and Peter about their motivation for their physical activity fundraising challenges in this video for the Lincolnshire Sport & Physical Activity Awards:
Where there's a will
And 2024 is set to be another year filled with challenges. Starting with Snowdon. 53 of the team, plus another potential 200 people will be headed up the mountain in April this year all in the name of positive mental health awareness.
“With a lot of people raising a little bit of money, who knows the total amount we could end up being able to donate to the charity,” added Dominic. “It’s fully self-funded, with no government support. So doing anything and everything I can to raise funds is hugely important. I’ve even jumped on stage dressed as a blue fairy in the Bourne panto this year. I genuinely don’t know what will be happening week-by-week, and I love that.”
Keep up to date with Don't Lose Hope's latest news and fundraising on their facebook page.