The Power of Connecting

The Power of Connecting

Julie & Patrick finalThis week has marked both World Suicide Prevention Day and R U Ok Day.  These events provide an opportunity to raise awareness of the vital importance of mental health and how we can connect with each other in our own communities.  In a world that is so busy, crazy, connecting with each other on more than a superficial level can be really challenging. But the power of connecting is so important for ourselves and those around us. Someone that I love to connect with and truly admire and respect is Patrick Hollingworth.  At 193cm or 6 foot 4 inches, Patrick towers over me and it is hard to believe that this is a man who has always had a chronic fear of heights.  In 2006, during the 9 hours and 12 minutes that it took him to swim the arduous 20 km Rottnest Channel in Western Australia, Patrick hatched a plan that would address his fear of heights.  Patrick also had another, more insidious issue that needed regular care.  For more than half of his life, this adventurer has battled with depression, the infamous ‘Black Dog’ that affects one out of eight Australians. Mountain climbing was set to become the best physical and mental therapy that Patrick could ever dream of. Central to his plan hatched while powering through the Indian Ocean, was the worlds tallest mountain, Mt Everest. Setting his sights on the Himalayan Giant, Patrick spent the next four years obtaining the necessary experience to allow him to climb progressively higher mountains. This journey led him to the Rocky Mountains in Canada, Spantik (7000 m) in Pakistan, Denali (6,194m) – the highest mountain in North America, and several climbs in the Himalaya’s including Cho Oyu and Ama Dablam. Rather than stop him, Patrick has used his fear to conquer some of the tallest mountains in the world. In turn, these giants have assisted him to keep his depression at bay. In March 2010, Patrick became only the third West Australian to summit the ultimate prize, the true Himalayan giant Mt Everest. At 8,848 metres or 29,029 feet tall, this peak is a hard taskmaster with a 30% success rate for reaching the summit. For every ten successful ascent’s there is one death with 80% of deaths occurring on the descent due to the high elevation and corresponding lack of oxygen, extreme temperatures and weather. Despite the elation of success, Patrick readily admits that every one of the 40 minutes he spent at the top of Mt Everest were some of the scariest he has ever experienced. This inspirational West Australian continues to climb mountains around the world setting his own goals and leading others in expeditions. Ideally Patrick wants to use his adventures to raise awareness of depression, reduce its stigma in our society and provide inspiration and comfort to others who are suffering. During the early part of his mountaineeering career, Patrick admits that he never recognised climbing mountains as anything special, it was just something that he chose to do for the excitement and sense of adventure. Part of him still believes that there is nothing special about it – in the simplest form, you climb up to the top, turn around and go back down again. Over time, he has begun to appreciate that it is in the moments of exhaustion, fear and doubt, when we truly stretch ourselves to the edge of our limits, that we learn much about ourselves. And the value of perseverance, in order to achieve competence and our dreams. Yo can read more  about Patrick and other inspirational people in my book, ‘Ready, Set…Go’  

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