Inspiring 9-Year-Old Sets Out to Trek the UK Coastline to Advocate for Mental Health in Children and Teens
Freddie, aged 9 from South East England is planning to walk the entire coastline of England, Wales, and Scotland to help raise awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and mental health in kids and teens.
Freddie, whose nickname is ‘Penfold’ was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of significant levels of trauma in his very early childhood. After being adopted at age 3 by Tina and Cas, Penfold discovered the incredible benefits of hiking and walking; he found peace from his anxiety and PTSD and “when life becomes too much, we pack the bags and hit the trails”.
PTSD is a condition which some people develop after experiencing trauma in their life such as a road traffic accident, bereavement, personal assault, natural disaster, miscarriage, traumatic childbirth, being bullied, sexual violence, childhood abuse, domestic abuse or fire. It’s estimated that in any given week in the UK, 4 in 100 people have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – this equates to 2,612,000 people in the UK, yet it’s still an incredibly misunderstood, and still relatively unknown condition.
Despite his anxiety and PTSD, Penfold decided he wanted to help others, and so his mission is to shine a spotlight on how hiking positively impacts mental health, with the hope that others can find the same solace and relief from life’s everyday pressures. Whether it’s taking a walk in nature or exploring other activities that provide a similar sense of freedom and calm, he wants everyone to discover their own path to happiness and serenity.
Tina and Cas explain more, “Hiking provides time away from daily stresses that can make life difficult and hard to navigate for Penfold. When he hits a trail, he becomes a different boy: things he normally struggles with are no longer an issue. It is amazing the clarity he gets from putting on his walking boots and hitting a trail. We know this is a huge challenge that he’s asked to do, and we will stop walking when he stops – but as long as he wants to keep exploring, we’re behind him all the way.
Raising awareness about mental health conditions is crucial because while we often associate them with adults, it’s important to acknowledge that children can be affected as well, even from a young age. We faced numerous obstacles in obtaining a proper diagnosis for Freddie. We were unheard for a long time, and the assumption that we, as parents, couldn’t cope and at fault, obviously added to our struggles.
Freddie had difficulty expressing his emotions, causing negative behaviours to become his only outlet. ‘Decoding’ his messages and discovering new avenues for self-expression became our mission. Of course, at times we felt lost, helpless, and consumed by frustration.
It wasn’t until we made the decision to remove him from mainstream education a year ago that we finally started to be heard. School was a source of distress for Freddie and it terrified him. Through Post Adoption services we were connected with an incredible child psychotherapist who diagnosed him with PTSD and Anxiety.
We want to shed light on this experience, but also help anyone with a mental health condition – to give them hope that they can find relief. For Freddie, hiking became his peaceful place. Without it, I can’t imagine where we would be today.”
Jacqui Suttie, Founder and CEO of PTSD UK added “We are in awe of Penfold and his amazing challenge. He truly is an inspiration with his incredible dedication, ambitious goals, and uplifting attitude. Not only does the challenge help support our mission to raise awareness of PTSD and C-PTSD, but it also serves as a beacon of hope for others facing similar issues. It shows them what is achievable and encourages them to believe in themselves, perhaps even setting their own empowering challenges along the way!”
Not only have Tina, Cas and Freddie’s friends and family rallied around to support this challenge, but local charity Broadlands Equine Therapy have helped to raise awareness, and the Wheatsheaf Pub and Hotel on the Isle of Wight provided a discount once they found out about the challenge. In a heartwarming gesture, the owner of ‘The Hut’ near the Fishbourne Pub in Fishbourne, Isle of Wight, graciously refunded the money they spent on their purchases, showing his desire to lend a helping hand. These acts of kindness have deeply touched Tina, Cas and Freddie.
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Treatments for PTSD
It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.