SPEAK out about mental health – that’s the message from a young adventurer who took on West Dorset’s toughest hill climb.

Alex Staniforth, 21, has completed an epic 72-day, 5,000 mile challenge which involved summiting the highest points of every county in the UK – including Lewesdon Hill near Beaminster.

At 279m it is the highest point in Dorset. Alex, from Cheshire, completed the challenge to raise awareness of young people’s mental health, as well as raise more than £22,000 for mental health charity YoungMinds. 

Called #ClimbTheUK, the feat involved him travelling more than 5,000 miles on foot, by bike and in a kayak, and stretched Alex’s limits physically and mentally. He described the challenge as his ‘new Everest’.

Alex has already attempted to reach the peak of Everest twice, only to be thwarted by Mother Nature in the shape of avalanches, the second of which two years ago killed three of his colleagues.

YoungMinds UK, the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people, is particularly close to Alex’s heart as he has suffered from mental health issues since he was a boy. He was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was nine and has also had to overcome a bad stammer, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, low self-confidence, bullying and low self-esteem and eating disorders which the condition triggered.

Alex said: “Mental illness is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with – far more difficult than climbing Everest. Everyone has their own mountain to climb and my big message over the last few months has been that if you’re suffering from mental health issues, please speak out, tell someone you trust, visit the Young Minds website and seek help – it’s not a sign of weakness. Talking about it is a sign of strength.” 

As part of his challenge Alex was supported by leading youth charity YHA (England and Wales) which provided accommodation at Youth Hostels throughout the challenge, including YHA Little Cheney.

To donate to Young Minds, please visit www.justgiving.com/climbtheuk