Have you ever been on holiday and looked at the beautiful scenery thinking ‘I’d love to do a challenge for a good cause’?
Well, this is exactly what 24-year-old, Agriculture with Farm Business Management graduate Tom Coats from Buckinghamshire did when he was travelling through the marvellous mountainous terrains of New Zealand over Christmas. That thought became an action and now he is training to make his second attempt to reach the 4,808m summit of Mont Blanc to raise money and awareness for us and the work we do.
Although not born directly into the farming community, Tom’s family farmed livestock in Northern Ireland which is where he developed an enthusiasm and bond for the industry early on. After graduating from Harper Adams University, Tom now works as an Area Sales Manager for Oliver Landpower Ltd.
He recalls happy times visiting his relatives in Northern Ireland and mucking around on the farm. This was where his love for machinery developed as nobody could ever drag him away from the Massey 135 tractor or the quad bike. His years at Harper Adams were the best time of his life however they were tinged with the shock and sadness of losing fellow students to mental health struggles. This made Tom realise that he did not want to stand by and keep watching it happen he wanted to make a difference…
As he says: “Mental health is rocking farming to its core now, whether it is financial pressures on a global level affecting smaller family farms, or the increasing hatred in the press for the farming industry that people can’t deal with. As the younger generation come home from their Uni or college experience and settle into life back home or into a job, this transition period can be hard to adjust to. Wild nights out with all your mates every week and free time to do all your favourite hobbies can slip away and be replaced with the instant reality of the pressures surrounding a family business in this economy.”
Having abandoned a first attempt to summit Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in Western Europe in 2015 due to a severe white-out at 300m from the top, Tom decided 2023 would be the right time to give it another go.
He explains: “When you set your mind on doing something that is a real-life achievement then you just have to make sure you get it done. It gives you something to work towards and if you’re struggling with anything then having something to focus on and train for really helps channel the mind.”
Being active and challenging himself physically also help Tom maintain his positive wellbeing.
He continues: “It might seem a tad extreme to some people when I say I want to climb a mountain to clear my head but that genuinely is what happens. When it is dark and all you can see is the circle from your head torch and it is just you and the bitterly cold wind then you get a fair amount of time to think. When my body is being pushed physically it brings out the best in me mentally. If I go for a run, I often find myself talking in my own head urging me on and I know this will be a key player in getting me to the top of Mont Blanc.
“In farming we are all guilty of working every hour the day throws us and never ensuring we have time to spend either on ourselves or on our families. By setting myself physical challenges such as these, it forces me to free up the time for the training thereby allowing myself time to enjoy my surroundings.”
So, with a deadline of May 2023 looming large, how is Tom coping with the training for such a mountainous challenge (excuse the pun)?
He says; “The key points to focus on are aerobic fitness and leg strength. Ankles take a bit of a pounding up and down mountains so building up resistance in them is a key component to success. We will be doing some training weekends with the whole team too which will likely take place in the UK and consist of summiting peaks and focussing on climbing skills.
And the risks?
“The climb, whilst calculated, does of course come with risks. The risk of rockfall onto you when you are climbing is the most dangerous problem when lower down the mountain. Once above the rocky areas and into the snow, the challenges become the altitude and the weather. The last time we attempted this, the weather defeated us and that can’t be planned for 100%. If we get hit by severe snow or wind then the challenge becomes even more interesting due to how exposed you are when on the mountain so, fingers crossed for good weather and a lovely summit picture!
As with everyone we are highlighting this week, we asked Tom what his advice would be to someone who may be struggling with their mental health right now and he suggests the following:
“Please, for goodness-sake, just tell someone. I know whenever I have reached out to someone, they were more than happy to listen and offer advice. Maybe drop your friend a message and go for a chat, or just mention something to your family when you’re sat down one evening. There will be so many people you know who love you and want the best for you so make sure you tell them.
“If you don’t feel like you can chat to your family or friends about it then there are lots of amazing charities and foundations who will help out, so just please, speak up!!
For more information or to support the challenge follow @tomcoats on Instagram or visit his Go Fund Me page HERE
If you or someone you know needs help, please CLICK HERE to access the Little Book of Minding Your Head – The book contains the contact details and hours of opening of many of the UK’s farming charities and rural support groups.
If you, or someone you are with feels overwhelmed by thoughts of not wanting to live or having urges to attempt suicide, get help NOW. Call a suicide hotline.
Samaritans 116 123
NHS Emergency 999
Papyrus HOPELINEUK 0800 068 4141