Amanda Curtis completed the el Camino de Santiago as part of an awareness campaign for mental health

Former Taree resident Amanda Curtis has been on the experience of a lifetime- a 900 kilometre trek from southern France to northern Spain. The trek is known as ‘el Camino de Santiago’ or in English ‘The way of Saint James’.

She began at Saint-Jean-pied-de-port in France and finished 42 days later at Cape Finisterre in Spain.

Her initial interest in the trek stemmed from curiosity.

“I love hiking, but I am also fascinated by history, ancient culture and belief systems, so when I heard about an ancient pilgrim trail I was pretty intrigued,” Amanda said. 

As she began to plan the trek, a close friend attempted suicide. This prompted her to change the focus of the trek from a holiday to an awareness campaign for mental health.

“I felt helpless being so far away, and as the story unraveled, I was so frustrated with the lack of support provided by both the public and private systems

“I’m most certainly not claiming to be any kind of expert on the subject, and I can only speak about my own limited second hand experiences with mental health, but I find it incomprehensible that we live in such a beautiful, rich country, with such limited options and mind blowing mental health statistics,” Amanda said.

The trek took Amanda from southern France to the north of Spain.

The trek took Amanda from southern France to the north of Spain.

She encountered an array of different people on her journey, many with their own reasons to complete the trek. These included an unaided girl in a specialised 4-wheel-drive wheelchair, a man holding a vow of silence, two men carrying their terminally ill mother and a group of men walking 10,000 kilometres to Jerusalem. 

Amanda said the trek was too surreal to put into words. 

“It’s something so simple that teaches you so much about perception and appreciating the simple things in life,” Amanda said.

She hoped her experience would inspired more to be done with helping those with mental illness. 

It’s something so simple that teaches you so much about perception and appreciating the simple things in life

Amanda Curtis

“Sadly, there is still a stigma that exists in our society surrounding mental health.

“I believe more research and public funding needs to go into alternate treatments and supported rehabilitation for the mental health sector, but it’s also really important to remember prevention is so much better than cure.

“If people were better educated on the early warning signs and felt comfortable talking to someone about them early on, mental health statistics would be a fraction of what they are today,” she said.

Amanda began the fundraiser earlier this year and had reached $1716 at time of print.

To donate the cause, visit https://www.gofundme.com/500-miles-for-recovery. 

Amanda now resides in France.

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