Leeds woman's 10,000 mile Mongol Rally challenge to help break stigma surrounding mental health

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A woman who has battled  depression and anxiety  is set to take part in the  10,000 mile Mongol Rally  in a bid to help break the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Lydia Birch, 24, of Thorner, and three friends will spend around two-months travelling from London to Ulan Ude in Russia in her 13-year-old 1.2 litre Honda Jazz.

Lydia Birch

Lydia Birch

They will have no back up during the journey as they travel through 18 countries.

Lydia, who works at John Lewis in Leeds, wants to raise awareness of and money for mental health charity Leeds Mind by taking part in the rally, which starts on July 16.

She said: "I'm doing this because I want a challenge and prove that if you have mental health problems you can go and do what you want to do, it shouldn't hold you back."

Lydia said: "I first experienced depression and anxiety in 2014 when my parents split up due to unfortunate circumstances.

Lydia Birch

Lydia Birch

"This left me feeling confused and unsure. We had to sell our home with no idea where we would go.

"I quit university and I was really unsure about all aspects of my future for myself , mum and sisters.

"These events led to me being diagnosed with depression and anxiety. At this time in my life I felt very alone and didn't really know where to turn for support.

" I had a full time job but expected a lot more from myself in terms of progression but just couldn't due to my mental health.

"Id always been a go-getter, but my whole out look on life had changed and I didn't see much in terms of a future for myself ."

"To try combat my anxiety I started saying yes to things I knew would make me anxious such as social situations.

"It wasn't easy but it helped me push the barrier of anxiety , create supportive friendships and have the confidence to volunteer."

Lydia said in 2016 she travelled to Bangladesh to do voluntary work for the International Citizen Service with Voluntary Services Overseas.

It was there she met Sergei Palmer, 28, and Max Son, 27.

She will be competing in the Mongol Rally with Sergei and Max and Sergei's partner Rachel Brenner, 27.

They will be raising money for Leeds Mind, Chron's and Colitis UK and environmental charity Cool Earth.

Lydia said: "I'm excited about the rally, it's going to be really good fun, but it is also going to teach us a lot."

To donate, go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lydiasmongolrally