Mum-of-three, Sally Giles, and friend, Theresa, are planning to walk 350 miles for charity throughout the month of May, alongside Mental Health Awareness Month.

Sally has struggled with her own mentalh heatlh after losing her first child, Samantha.
Sally has struggled with her own mentalh heatlh after losing her first child, Samantha.

The chosen charity is for Mission Aviation Fellowship [MAF] – the world’s largest humanitarian airline – and are participating in the one-month walking challenge as part of MAF’s ‘Time in their Shoes’ initiative, a campaign which reflects the desperate need of isolated people who are helped by its international air service.

Sally sadly lost her first baby, Samantha, at birth in 1987, and after suffering with severe agoraphobia, anxiety, and depression, turned to walking which became her ‘medicine.’

As the pair continue their charity walk, we chat to Sally on why she is passionate about raising money for this charity and how she manages her own mental health.

You and your friend are completing a sponsored walk which coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week – How is it going? How do you feel about this accomplishment?

Yes, Teresa and I are walking for the whole month of May doing our fundraising/sponsor walk for the wonderful charity MAF. It's going really well; our target is to walk 350 miles between us. We started together on May 2nd and have walked 272.06 miles to date. During Mental Health Awareness week our target was to do 90 miles but we topped that with a combined mileage of 109.15 Miles. I am totally loving doing this challenge.

You state that walking is your medicine – what is it about being outdoors that helps your own mental health?

Yes, walking is definitely my medicine, alongside with having a very real faith which keeps me strong. The great outdoors, nature, and the countryside have massive benefits to my own mental health. It helps me to keep on top of any anxiety issues, and to deal with any stresses in life that I sometimes struggle with. I haven't had a bad relapse with the anxiety/agoraphobia/depression for well over 10 years now since I have been walking regularly.

You suffered with agoraphobia, depression and panic attacks after losing your first child – how has walking contributed to improving your mental health?

I lost my first baby, Samantha, in 1987, it was just awful and broke my heart. That's when things really went downhill for me mentally. I suffered with extreme panic attacks which led to agoraphobia and depression, it was awful. It got to the point where I couldn't go out, or even put the washing on my line in the garden. I had to have professional help/therapy, it was a very low and dark time in my life. I started doing exposure therapy which began with just walking a little way from my home, the power of walking is huge.

You are fundraising for the campaign ‘Time In Their Shoes’ – what is this campaign?

The ‘Time in their Shoes’ campaign is walking so they don't have to. The people at MAF - Mission Aviation Fellowship - serve communities who live in remote isolated places in the world, these people can spend days walking just to get medicine, medical help, food, and water. The campaign will help to fund the flights to help these people in need.

Why did you choose to raise money for this charity and campaign?

I have chosen to raise money for MAF (the largest Humanitarian Airline in the world) because I believe in the work that they are doing, helping these people is priceless. There is one story which really touches my heart of a pregnant lady living in a remote area in Papua New Guinea. She was in labour for four days unable to deliver her baby, she was losing strength and was exhausted. MAF flew one of their small planes to the Mougulu airstrip where the mother was waiting, she was flown 35 minutes to Kiunga met by an ambulance, then taken to hospital and delivered her baby with the help needed. This mother and baby would have probably died without the help from MAF, and the thought of that happening made me cry. 

Sally and her friend, Theresa, plan to walk 350 miles throughout the month of May for charity, MAF.
Sally and her friend, Theresa, plan to walk 350 miles throughout the month of May for charity, MAF.

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You also lead a local walking group – Do you find it has helped others mentally as well as physically?

I have been running my walking group for 10 years now, we just celebrated the 10th year anniversary! It has definitely helped people physically and mentally. Strong friendships have been formed which in turn always gives support to those who need it. I just love to encourage people to keep walking, eat well, and look after your health that's an investment which is priceless!

Being a mother of three – how do you initiate or discuss mental health and how to protect it with your children?

All of my children are adults now and have flown the nest. I tried to hide my mental health issues from them when they were children, I wanted to protect them from what I was going through. They do remember seeing me unwell and we can talk about it openly now as it did have some effect on them, which I do feel sad about even though I know I couldn't help being unwell at the different times it happened over the years.

If you are having a ‘down day,’ what do you do to get through it?

Thankfully down days are very few and far between nowadays. Yes, I do still suffer sometimes from milder forms of anxiety, but I manage to keep on top of it all by knowing my stress limits. Learning to say no to things if it gets too much, keeping myself fit and healthy, and of course getting out into the great outdoors! It’s God’s pharmacy for the mind, body and soul.

What advice would you give to others who struggle with their mental health?

My advice to others who are struggling with mental health issues like anxiety, agoraphobia, depression would be to first of all say that you can come through this no matter how low you are feeling. Your mind and body are waiting to heal. You are stronger than you think you are at this present time. Never ever be ashamed of suffering in this way, always reach out and seek professional help. If you are able to get out and walk, then do so, eat a healthy diet, if you have faith then pray. Set yourself a daily routine list to help you focus, try to do the things on your own personal list. Believe in yourself you can beat this, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You are so much braver and stronger than you think. Remember talking helps so be open. You have got this; your recovery is just around the corner.

Who is your role model in life?

My role model is my lovely Dad who sadly passed away back in 1996. Dad was only 55, he was so young. I was 33 weeks pregnant with our youngest son at the time, yes I did get unwell again. I had to seek professional help, it was a tough time on the road to recovery, but I made it back again. My Dad was such a wonderful person, so caring and loving, He taught me right from wrong, and loved us all unconditionally. I was totally blessed to have had him in my life. My Dad was the best.

If you would like to sponsor Sally and her friend, Therea, on their charity walk, visit:

For more information on the charity, visit:

MORE: The mental health benefits of walking, particularly for new parents and post-natal wellbeing (

Written by Laura, who you can follow on Twitter, @LauraJadeC20

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