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Mental health: Sailing solo around Britain to get people talking

Image caption, Freya Terry has spent the last few months working on her boat to get her ready for the challenge

  • Author, Kate Morgan
  • Role, Communities correspondent, BBC Wales

“Sailing has given me a personality outside of my mental health struggles,” believes Freya Terry.

The 21-year-old from Pembrokeshire is about to set sail on a solo journey around Great Britain and Ireland, covering 2,300 nautical miles.

If she completes the challenge, she will set a record as the youngest and first female to sail solo around the UK and Ireland.

But for the sailor, this is much more than a race, it is the culmination of a decade-long journey with her mental health.

Image caption, Freya Terry began sailing at the age of 11 and is now a qualified yachting instructor

The yachting instructor’s journey with her mental health began at the age of 11, around the first time she started to sail.

“It was lots of little things and then I struggled with the transition into secondary school as well as making friendships,” she said.

“I started to isolate myself a lot and that’s where my struggles began, then it just got worse from there.”

The sailor described becoming isolated and withdrawn, unwilling to talk to family, friends, or health professionals.

She added: “I kind of lost trust in people a lot and I wasn’t talking to people so I would be sat in a therapist’s office and I just wouldn’t talk to them.”

Image caption, The 21-year-old said she is most nervous about speaking so openly about her mental health

Sat on the stern of her boat in Neyland marina, she recalled nights where she would run away without telling anyone, harming herself, and hiding it from her loved ones.

“It showed me that I wasn’t on my own in this and that it kind of was a real thing, that other people were struggling with as well and that it wasn’t my fault that this was happening, which was huge for me,” she said.

Image caption, Freya’s mum Julie Campbell said she had hoped she would change her mind about the trip

Her new-found confidence has surprised those closest to her, including mum Julie Campbell who described being “completely amazed”.

The mum-of-four said she could not have imagined her daughter taking on a challenge like this.

“When you’re kind of in it… you’re just kind of getting through almost like a day at a time, week at a time… I just didn’t really look forwards… we were just coping as as we got through each day and week, a month,” she added.

The 60 year-old laughed nervously that, while proud, she had hoped she would not do it.

“I mean I do have confidence in her as a sailor, but as a mum, I am just terrified,” she added.

Image caption, The sailor will stop frequently on her journey to meet people as well as pick up supplies

For Freya, being out on the waves is the exciting part, it is sharing her other journey that causes her most fear.

“The bit I’m most scared of or most nervous about is talking to people and talking about mental health because it’s really difficult and I think that’s okay to say but I’m doing it anyway,” she added.

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