How taking action and being active helped our mental health, and will go on to support others

Kathy O’Callaghan was a loving aunt and a wonderful friend to Laura. After she took her own life in October 2020, Laura and her good friend Jane decided to take action and raise awareness around mental health, in her memory. They took on a 27km walking challenge on the beautiful island of Lanzarote, wanting to do something that enhanced their fitness and made them feel both physically and mentally good. And they managed to raise an astonishing €2,773! Jane tells us their story and explains why this walk was so important to her and Laura.


“Kathy O’Callaghan was such a lovely, lively character, a pub landlady for most of her life she was typical of how you’d expect a pub landlady to be – happy, funny, confident, outgoing. In three years’ time she was planning to retire to the beautiful island of Lanzarote, where she and her husband own a villa, and the plan was to live a happy retirement together in the sun. However, underneath this shining exterior Kathy was troubled by things. She tried to deal with her problems herself over the years but it all got too much when her life was halted due to the closure of her beloved business during the pandemic. In October 2020, Kathy devastatingly she took her own life. She was just 52 years old.

Over the months her family tried to come to terms with losing her, not least her niece Laura, who has lived in Lanzarote for many years with her husband Allan. Kathy and Laura shared an incredible bond – they were far more than aunt and niece, they were also the best of friends.

One morning Laura decided she was going to do something in memory of Kathy and to help raise awareness of mental health and protect the lives of people like Kathy. She decided to set a walking target of 27km and embark on a coastal walk from her home in Puerto Calero to Playa Blanca – the area Kathy was to retire to. Now this might sound easy to some but Laura would be the first to say she doesn’t exercise regularly, let alone walk that far, so it was a huge challenge ahead!

I quickly offered my support and along with Laura’s husband, friend Richie and six others we set off at 8am on Sunday 11th April. Because of the rocky terrain along the coastal path, it took us 7 hours 15 minutes to reach Playa Blanca. We were a little exhausted (and hot!) but we were delighted to be greeted by a champagne reception! And most of all, we couldn’t believe how much the exercise lifted our moods – it inspired us to keep being active, for Kathy.

Both Laura and I had set up JustGiving fundraising pages and between us we raised a staggering €2,773! When we started we hoped for around €500…Incredible!

Kathy, if only you knew how amazing you really were and how much love people have for you. Hopefully you were looking down on us that day and loved it when we put your picture on the beach!

We wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who supported us in our walk, and not least for the support from Mental Health UK.”

Feeling inspired and energised by this story? Why not try your own walking challenge? Take that first brave step with our walking event, Step by Step to find out how.

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