'The Gower Peninsula makes me feel alive'
Mal, The Gower
A work place accident changed Mal’s life forever. 21 years on and he is healing his physical and mental scars by walking. Diagnosed with PTSD, Mal felt like he was suffering alone. By sharing his story online, he encouraged others to open up about their own worries and in the process created a walking group to provide an outlet. Growing up on the Welsh coast, Mal always had a deep connection to the sea and shared this love with his group. They now regularly walk along the beach at Rhossili but also venture further afield, sharing stories, a lot of laughter and plenty of singing.
A life changing accident
Mal: 'It took me nearly five years to walk even just a couple hundred metres.
It’s just in my mind set now. Giving up is not an option. No chance.
I was born and bred in Port Talbot. People class Port Talbot as a dirty old town, but there’s just so much beauty around here. To me, the Gower Peninsula is breath taking.
I’ve always lived down by the sea. The sea is in my soul. I just can’t live without it.
It was 1997. I went to work and while I was repairing a conveyor belt, a drum caught my foot and pulled my leg in and it just changed my life from there.
The mental scars just would not go away.'
" Men are notorious for “we don’t talk, we’re fine.” But we’re not."
'I decided to share my story. I wanted to express to other men that there’s nothing to be ashamed of about mental health. To be strong and talk about it, and talk to others.
Severe PTSD took over my life. I lost all my confidence, my family and friends.
I realise now the damage it caused, not only to my body, but to my mind. 21 years on it still tortures my mind.
You hear people saying "Oh we’ll do something 100% better"; that’s not real. But if every day you do something 1% better, then you can get somewhere.'
Walking their troubles away
'My mentality was every day I would walk to one more lamp post. So I just started walking a bit further and further and further. A couple of lads I know said “Oh I wouldn’t mind joining you on the walk.”
I said if anybody wants to join me I’ll meet you down the end of the pier. And I turned up and there were 16 there. I thought “There’s something in this.”
A lot of us have got to a point where you think your social environment has gone. But now we do things that when we were younger we thought we'd never do again.
When we go to The Gower, I take them to Rhossili and the Three Cliffs, and they are just blown away by it because they have never been there, and yet it’s only a couple of miles up the road.'
Dennis, one of Mal's walking friends: 'Well four years ago I lost my wife, and felt down. Now I come, have a chat with the boys and a great laugh. Some of them are in the same position as me and it’s really helped.'
Mal: 'It creates a sense of belonging, where people belong and where people enjoy coming.
As soon as they come, everybody just gets this buzz about the place. We’ll be on a high for weeks and weeks and weeks after this now. It's absolutely wonderful!'
" I will be coming here until my last days, because I’m determined to keep on walking now and I know the other boys are too. We’ll always come back here."
'The Gower Peninsula makes me feel alive. It makes me want to go back again and again and again.'
If you have been affected by this story, or are experiencing something similar yourself, or with loved ones, please contact Mind for information and support; www.mind.org.uk or 0300 123 3393, between 9 am - 6pm Monday to Friday.