The 45-year-old hopes to join a group of other mental health advocates in September 2017 to climb the mountain to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation. There are still places left for anybody interested in taking on the Kilimanjaro Challenge 2017.
Lissa, who lives on Auckland’s North Shore, has been busy raising money and awareness for the MHF since February 2016. In October 2106, she took part in the Auckland Marathon, raising more than $8,000. She was surprised but happy to learn she was the MHF’s top fundraiser for the marathon.
“I took part in the 12km Traverse and it was great. I’d taken part in half marathons before just for my own personal wellbeing, but this was my first one for charity. I was blown away and humbled by the money raised. I really got into it once I’d made the decision to do it,” Lissa says.
She’s held several events to raise money and awareness for the MHF, including a movie night, fitness events and silent auctions. She’s also planning a market stall selling donated goods to raise money.
Getting people to talk important
“It’s not just about raising funds, it’s also about raising awareness of mental health issues and what the MHF does and getting people to talk about their mental health.
“When I did the bucket collection outside Countdown, it was amazing the number of people who came up to me and told me their stories about mental health.”
Lissa, who has two daughters aged nine and 12, lost her brother Sean to suicide in 2000 and has herself experienced depression and anxiety. Sean had bipolar affective disorder.
“Mental health is something very close to my heart. I first had issues about 20 years ago. I was dealing with a marriage break up, then dealing with Sean dying. Later I had severe postnatal depression with both my girls and took medication and got through it. Last year I went to Canada for a holiday and had a great time but when I got back I hit rock bottom and went to a dark place. I didn’t know what to do, I cried all the time and went back on medication.”
Lissa says she’s learnt to pace herself, to not take on too much and to say “no”. And exercise has been key to feeling good mentally and physically – healthy body equals healthy mind.
She works part-time as an administrator at Aon, who have been supportive of Lissa, giving her time off when she needs it. “They are very supportive of mental health awareness in the workplace,” Lissa says.
Ready and excited for Mt Kilimanjaro Challenge
As for the Mt Kilimanjaro Challenge, she can’t wait.
“I’m busy lining up all my ducks. I’ve had medical clearance, clearance from my husband and kids, and am busy fundraising for the trip… It’s something I’ve never thought about doing but I’m really excited about it.”
And she isn’t worried about getting fitter to climb Africa’s highest peak.
“I’m pretty fit already. I’ll do some tramps to get some altitude practice in.”
Her advice to people going through a hard time is to talk about it and tell people what you’re going through and how you feel. And if you think someone might be struggling, make sure you ask if they’re OK.
“It’s a powerful thing to do and good for other people to hear. People who matter won’t judge you.”