A CHARITY-minded teacher is gearing up to cycle over 200 miles to raise money for a mental health charity following her own battle with anxiety and depression.
Sophie Potter, 27, teaches at Arden Academy in Knowle and hopes to raise £1,500 when she cycles 278 miles in aid of Mind.
Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem – whilst campaigning to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
The charity bike ride is set to take place between Thursday, August 10 and Monday, August 14 starting at Greenwich Park in London and finishing at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Sophie said she was inspired by her own experiences with anxiety and depression to raise money for the mental health charity.
She added: “I have previously undergone counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy and now take a daily medication which has changed my life unimaginably for the better.
“It took me several years to agree to try medication for my anxiety due to the fear that someone would find out and think I was ‘crazy’ and consider me unable to do certain things – these fears were unfounded.”
The French teacher only took up cycling two months ago, but has always wanted to conquer a physical fundraising challenge – so saw Mind’s London to Paris bike ride as the ideal opportunity.
Despite the bike ride already being challenging, Sophie revealed she has a genetic condition called primary lymphoedema, which affects her legs and causes fluid to build up in the soft tissues and her legs to swell.
In order to conquer this, she wears three layers of medical compression garments to the knees which can be very hot and uncomfortable and can even affect her mobility.
In preparation for the bike ride, the 27-year-old said she uses a training plan from Mind along with nutritional advice from a personal trainer.
She added: “I am preparing for this ride by getting out on my bike at least once during the week, though as a teacher this is challenging as I always have so much work to do, and doing a longer ride at the weekend.
“The longest ride I have done so far was last weekend – 35 miles in and around Solihull.”
As a teacher, Sophie works to break down the stigma surrounding mental health – running a weekly Mindfulness club at the school to equip pupils with techniques to manage their stress.
She said: “It is my wish that all those living with mental health difficulties will one day have access to appropriate support without fear of stigma or prejudice, and that openly talking about mental health with be the ‘norm’ for young people growing up today.”
Commenting on the fundraiser, she said: “I am very excited about completing the ride; I lived in Paris briefly before starting university and I would probably still consider that period of time to be the happiest time of my life so this feels like something of a pilgrimage.
“I am also very nervous about the distance and psychological challenge, but have no doubts about finishing the ride as I am very determined.”
The 27-year-old has already raised over £1,200 through generous sponsorship from family, friends and colleagues, and a doughnut sale at school.
To sponsor Sophie visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/sophiepedalstoparis-mind2017