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National charity CEO walks in the wake of St Cuthbert on World Bipolar Day

A national charity CEO, in collaboration with Rotary clubs in the North East, will walk from Durham to Holy Island this March to mark World Bipolar Day. The trek will take nine-and-a-half days, symbolising the average 9.5 years it takes to get a diagnosis of bipolar in the UK.

Simon Kitchen, CEO of Bipolar UK and president of the world’s first ever Rotary Bipolar eClub, is using the event to raise awareness and vital funds to support the 1 million people in the UK living with bipolar, and in particular to shine a light on the estimated 56% of people with the condition who don’t yet have a diagnosis.

Alongside Jeremy Clark (Bipolar UK trustee and Rotary Bipolar eClub member) and Jeremy’s wife Daisy, Simon will set off from Durham Cathedral at 10am on Saint Cuthbert’s day, Wednesday 20th March. The 199.5 km trek is the equivalent of 9.5 half marathons.

The trio will be waved off by British actor, writer and director and Bipolar UK ambassador Adam Deacon, and Rotary members in the area will be supporting the mission by handing out leaflets, encouraging people to talk about bipolar symptoms and raising awareness about the charity’s support services.

Talking about the challenge, Simon Kitchen said: “This walk will put me fully outside my comfort zone, having never walked this far before. But we wanted to really push our limits


“Every half marathon we’ll walk represents a whole year that our community lives without a diagnosis, often struggling with really difficult symptoms.

“People living with undiagnosed bipolar can experience alternating periods of debilitating low mood and periods of hypomania where they might take impulsive risks, massively overspend, and experience paranoid delusions. Tragically, these challenges often result in the loss of jobs, homes, and lives.

“Getting a diagnosis of bipolar is crucial because it means someone can get the treatment and support they need to have a much better chance of living well with the condition.

“Reducing the delay to diagnosis will improve and save thousands of lives.”

Bipolar UK and Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland joined together in partnership in October 2022, with the aim of increasing Bipolar UK's life-saving support by 20%. In the first year of partnership Bipolar UK was able to exceed this target, increasing service provision by 59%.

Joy Palmer Cooper, District Governor for Rotary North East, added: “It’s a privilege to support and raise awareness for such an important cause in the build up to World Bipolar Day on 30th March.

“Our network of Rotary members and the bipolar community will join and support Simon, Jeremy and Daisy for sections of the walk along the way.

“We're really proud to be in a national partnership with Bipolar UK, with Rotary clubs nationwide helping to raise awareness of the condition in their communities, as well as promoting positive mental health more widely."

Saint Cuthbert is often called the patron Saint of the North of England. The walkers will follow what’s known as the ‘saints’ route’ from Saint Cuthbert’s final resting place in Durham to Lindisfarne, where he spent much of his life.

Simon added: “Saint Cuthbert was famed for his diligence – a quality we will need in abundance to be able to complete this challenge.

“I know that my determination to keep going will be inspired by the thought of supporting the million-plus people in the UK who manage the challenges of bipolar on a daily basis.”

·         There are over 1 million people living with bipolar in the UK.

·         It is thought that fewer than half are diagnosed, partly due to lack of awareness of the condition, where symptoms can be often overlooked or misdiagnosed.

·         The devastating fact is that research suggests up to 1 in 5 people with bipolar take their own lives, highlighting the urgency of the issue.

·         Younger people living with bipolar are also 50 times more likely to take their life, compared to their peers.

The hope is that this event will help rally the North East as a region to come together to highlight bipolar as an urgent health issue that needs to be discussed, while supporting frontline services provided by Bipolar UK for the local community.

Alongside this, Bipolar UK is currently running a 6-month awareness campaign, with ‘Could it be bipolar?’ posters and leaflets, in 61 GP surgeries across the North East, to help educate people on the symptoms of bipolar and the support that is available.


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