Walking for mental health: Washington man aims for £10k charity boost

LEE Hogarth is on a mission to raise more than £10,000 for charity this year as he hopes to help tackle mental health and anxiety.

With a series of challenges set out across 2021, the Washington man is looking to boost funds for Anxious Minds, a counselling and support services non-profit which provides early intervention and long-term support for those in crisis.

Hogarth, an electrician-turned-fitness instructor, battled for a number of years against his own anxiety issues before turning to the wellbeing industry.

But it wasn’t before his mental health fight came to a head and he nearly ended his life.

“Through my teens and at school, all the way into my 20s, I was experiencing anxiety, depression and mainly panic attacks,” he told Washington Way. “It got so bad that I was scared to leave my bedroom at one point.

“I was an electrician and one day it all just came to a head, I had a meltdown inside one of our customer’s houses. I’d been an electrician for 12 years at that point and I was pulling through the wrong wires, totally zoned out…I just sat down on the floor of this old woman’s house, head in my hands, thinking ‘What on Earth is happening? How has it got this bad?’

“I went outside and phoned my gaffer and told him I quit, and just had a breakdown from there. So I went to the doctor, got some medication, did counselling, CBT, all of that.

“There were a lot of OCD habits and fixations I got into and no one could really explain why it was all happening. The doctors just kept saying ‘it’s anxiety and panic attacks’, but I wanted to know why that was happening and what it meant – no one could tell us.

Lee has turned his attention to helping others after conquering his own battle…

“So I went off and did my own research for years and I learned so much. Now after years of doing fitness I’ve got a company called Invincible which helps people with their mental health through training and things like that.”

After six years of being panic attack-free and ditching medication, Hogarth felt the time was right to step up and help another organisation pay it forward by supporting those going through similar experiences to his.

He focussed in on Newcastle’s Anxious Minds, a charity founded in 2015 by war veteran Eddie Dean who used his army pension to fund the launch in a bid to help both veterans and others alike with mental health issues.

“I wanted to find a charity where they get all the money and it doesn’t go to anything else but the cause, and I discovered Anxious Minds which does some really great work for people in the area. To raise money for them, I’m going to do something that’s helped me through life – walking.

“On May 1 I’ll be walking from my home in Fatfield over the Tyne bridge, along to Wallsend where the charity is based, back across to South Shields – where I once contemplated suicide – down the coast and back to Washington.

“Going in a big circle sort of symbolises coming ’round full circle in the battle against anxiety. I want to help others do that too.”

To date, Lee’s Just Giving page has raised nearly £900 of his £1000 target, but he aims to increase this by 10 fold by the end of this year with even more challenges across the next eight months.

“I’ve got a goal this year to raise 10 grand for them. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to do it. Their values match my own values so it’s a great thing to be a part of.

“I don’t want people to suffer as bad as I did for as long as I did.”

“I don’t have the power to tackle mental health as a one-man-band, and I can’t stop people’s issues, but I can help stop how long people are suffering.”

Click here to donate to Lee’s fundraiser for Anxious Minds.