Why I hiked 1000km for Jigsaw
January 21st 2019
Michael Quinn works for Lidl's Westport store. Last summer he challenged himself to hike the length of the Ireland Way, over 1000km in 40 days, to raise awareness and funds for Jigsaw. In this Q&A, he talks about his motivation, what he learned, and what changes he'd like to see for young people's mental health in Ireland.
What inspired you to get involved with Jigsaw?
I found out that Lidl was partnering with Jigsaw on the day I was at the funeral of a friend of mine that tragically fell off a balcony in Thailand. I knew I wanted to do something big and I had heard of Jigsaw before, so I decided to join the two while hiking 1000km. I had a very difficult time when I was a teen with my mental health, so what Jigsaw does is close to me and it might have made such a difference for me to have someone like Jigsaw there to help. I was also hoping that being upfront and honest about my my own difficulties might help others.
Where did you come up with the idea for Challenge Your Life?
The end of 2016 right up to the summer of 2017 I really went through some dark days… Well, months more than days to be honest. It was really just a bad time. I was down, I was out, I felt worthless and that I had utterly failed in life. Suddenly, I got hit with a spark of inspiration and I let that grow and it conceptualised itself into a challenge, a mountain challenge at that. There was a number of mountains I wanted to climb, so I decided to get them done before the summer was finished. Now as that spark grew I said to myself, 'Why not make YouTube videos about my journey'. I was literally challenging myself to do something totally different because I didn’t want to be sitting in my parents' home jobless, feeling worthless and giving up on life. I wanted to challenge my life to become a better happier me.
Can you give us some examples of how you experienced the Five-A-Day for your mental health during your challenge?
So everyday during the hike my Five-A-Day was getting fulfilled.
I walked on average 25 km a day so I was getting more than enough activity.
Every day I met someone new and when you’re in that situation it kind of forces you to meet people and stop for a chat and in certain situations even pop in for a cup of tea when it was offered. The people I met along the way were just amazing and it was such a privilege to hear so many amazing stories.
The stunning locations I came across and wonderful places I saw force you to 'take notice'. I’d turn a corner and have a wonder slap me in the face with its breathtaking beauty, it forces you to take note, reflect and be mindful.
I noticed a very interesting thing while on the walk, I would have normally thought this would have entailed making an effort to give something. However, I found just by me asking for help it gave people the opportunity of a kind act making them feel better.
I could write a book on what I learned and am still learning from those seven weeks. Whether it be about my body, mind, technique, local knowledge or interesting history, everyday was a life lesson.
What change would you like to see with youth mental health in Ireland?
Young people spend massive amounts of time in educational institutions and are funneled through narrow avenues of what is deemed as success; academic success. The young people that don’t fit this outdated system can develop mental health issues because they feel they are worthless and they are not good enough. Mistakes are punished when they should be encouraged, you’ll not learn true lessons without them. The pressure put on young people to get high grades in subjects they have no interest in, it’s mad really. In my opinion it’s a total waste of their time when they could be doing something more meaningful to them. I could go on so, in short, a total revamp of the educational system.