Worldwide focus on mental health kicks off with the eighth annual Granite Challenge

Action Mental Health’s annual kickstarter to World Mental Health Day – the Granite Challenge – got the charity’s packed week of events off to a resounding success on Sunday.

The sun shone for around 360 participants who tackled the sportive through the picturesque Mourne Mountains, tackling some challenging headwinds but raising much-needed funds for the charity’s Men’s Shed based at New Horizons Downpatrick.

All the money raised through the cycling event will be used to support the Men’s Shed which provides a relaxed and friendly environment where men over 50 form new friendships, share skills and learn new ones, while encouraging them to look after their mental health. Shedders, as they’re known, come together to work on practical activities of their choice, including horticulture, joinery, photography, arts and crafts, IT and cooking – every Men’s Shed is led by the needs and skills of its ‘shedders’ and AMH also offers one in Antrim and in Fermanagh.

The funds raised will be used to help pay for the men to attend as well as for equipment used in the workshops and other activities.

As a local charity, Action Mental Health relies on the support of the local community to help provide its vital services. The Downpatrick Shed is annually supported by the Granite Challenge which this weekend took cyclists along a scenic route through Tyrella and Dundrum, along coastal roads through Newcastle, and on towards Annalong at the foot of the Mournes. Riders then commenced their ascent through the Mournes past Silent Valley, climbing to Spelga Dam, before going downhill toward home, through the pretty village of Bryansford. Traversing Maghera and Clough they finally headed back to the finish in Downpatrick.

The challenging event was supported by McConvey Cycles and first aiders from St. John’s Ambulance, and as always, AMH is gratefully indebted to both for their great efforts on the day.

One member of the Men’s Shed in Downpatrick, Terry Murphy, reveals why the annual event is so important to him and his fellow Shedders. “I would encourage anyone our age to join the Men’s Shed; it’s very, very beneficial. You learn different skills and different crafts,  from wood-carving, and stained glass, to mosaic work.

“I enjoy my fellow shedders because without them there’s no shed. We all benefit from each other and as a group, together we all benefit from the support of the Granite Challenge. It’s an amazing community fundraising effort and we all really appreciate the people who come out to participate.”

AMH Chief Executive David Babington – who annually is among the hundreds of participating cyclists – reminds us that like any exercise, cycle promotes mental well-being.

“Physical activity plays a huge role in keeping our minds healthy as well as our bodies. With as many as one in five people in Northern Ireland experiencing mental ill-health at some stage of their life, it’s important to remember that simple things such as cycling to work or walking the dog can really help to reduce stress and clear the mind.

“As World Mental Health Day approaches on Thursday we couldn’t think of a more fitting tribute than hosting a large scale sporting event that unites the community in a show of support for those impacted by mental illness whilst also offering participants the chance to raise vital funds to support our work.

“We’re always really excited to host our annual Granite Challenge, which over the years has proved hugely popular with local cycling clubs and individuals alike. Each year the number of cyclists continues to grow, and this year the turnout was very gratifying so we want to thank everyone who took part.”

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