Everest hero treks for depression awareness


A Merton-based special needs teacher completed her first ever trek to the Everest base camp in memory of her brother.


By Ima Jackson-Obot and Monique Simpson

A Merton-based special needs teacher completed her first ever trek to the Everest base camp in memory of her brother.

Marie Hollywood walked nearly 120 km for 11 days and raised £3000 for Merton Mind and her school cricket green, Lower Green West.

She flew to Kathmandu, then to Lukla, Nepal before trekking up to 5364 metres to base camp.

“I felt great after I had done the trek. I was really excited and full of energy,” Marie said.

But her adventure, which started on April 1 when she left the UK, was unexpectedly extended because of the ash cloud crisis, leading her to return on April 30.

Her brother, Brendan, committed suicide two years ago, aged 32, after a life-long battle with depression made worse by his caffeine addiction.

This was Marie’s attempt to raise awareness of the issues involved.

“It is really prevalent and really a very isolating illness that leaves people feeling really hopeless and it is scary to feel like that,” she said.

Marie also has depression but says she is coping with it after doing a lot of research and receiving treatment rather than just speaking to her GP.

“This is something people do when they are not in crisis mode.  Unfortunately for people who are in the middle of it, it is not always possible to do that,” she added.

She does not believe the health service is doing enough to treat people with depression, after being offered a two-month waiting period for a workshop.

“Two months time to someone suffering depression is pointless and at the end of the day two months can be far away,” she explained.

“I don’t think it is adequate for somebody who has actually managed to go to the doctors to say, ‘look this is happening’, which most people don’t even get to that point.”

In her brother’s case, he was refused treatment because he was unable to give up his caffeine addiction which left him feeling unsupported and alone.

Marie believes young people should be made more aware of depression and needs to have a more prominent place in the curriculum.

“We are very, very pleased about receiving the donation from Marie,” said a Merton Mind spokesperson.

“It’s always very encouraging when somebody who we don’t know decides to do something like this to raise money.”

The charity plans to use the money to run a therapeutic group for people who are depressed after losing somebody.

However, there have been cuts in their services and with the change in government there are fears more cuts will have a negative impact.

“I think everyone is concerned because of the expectations of these efficiency savings.  

“What is this all going to mean for mental health, because mental health is often very much the poor relation,” the spokesman said.  “It is a very real fear.”

In 2008 there were 5,706 suicides in the United Kingdom. The number increased from 5,377 in 2007.

Statistics also show that one in four Britons will suffer with mental health problems at one point during their lifetime.

Even though it affects a lot of people, the stigma attached to depression still exists.

Marie has not experienced any stigmas and believes it is very difficult for people to understand depression as the person going through it, does not always understand it themselves. 

The charity spokesman believes there is progress in the recognition of dementia compared to 30 years ago but there is still a long way to go in changing attitudes towards mental health.

The Equality Act 2010, introduced in April, means employers will no longer be able to ask job applicants about their mental health history before an interview.

Marie thinks it is a good idea because of the shame and stigma attached and if people are forced to disclose their history it could set them on the wrong footing at work.

The charity spokesman said it is better for people to be open about their past treatment because a lot of depression is related to stress at work.

If an employer knows this then they can accommodate them and provide more support so they do not relapse.

Merton Mind provides services such as support for carers of people with dementia, and social groups for vulnerable people in the borough.

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