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Sixth form student completes 297-mile walk in memory of 297 people who took their own lives in north last year

Katie Graden

A SIXTH form student has finally put her feet up after completing a 297-mile walk in memory of the 297 people who took their own lives in Northern Ireland last year.

Katie Graden (17) from Newtownards, Co Down, who has herself suffered from anxiety for around five years and struggled with worry and stress for many more, was raising money for Action Mental Health (AMH) with her feat of endurance.

After two months' effort, she completed the route at Parliament Buildings in Stormont yesterday and handed over a cheque for more than £1,000 to AMH in a ceremony, supported by MLAs from UUP, DUP, Sinn Féin, SDLP, Green Party, Alliance and People Before Profit.

"I cherish my community and want to do everything I can to help anyone who is suffering an episode of poor mental health. Anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts are far too common these days and I wanted to play my part in supporting the fantastic work of Action Mental Health," said Katie, a pupil at Glenlola Collegiate in Bangor.

The fundraising initiative is an extension of the schoolgirl's proposal for a mental health pupil leadership team for every school in Northern Ireland.

"My proposal is for a student mental health and wellbeing council in every school, where pupils are elected through an application and interview process," she said.

"This team would hold regular meetings with the teacher-led pastoral care team to discuss recent issues, review processes and identify more effective solutions from a student perspective.

"...Students should be shown how to deal with panic attacks, self-harm and students experiencing suicidal thoughts in particular, just like students are trained in first aid."

“I am hopeful of securing a one year pilot scheme, if any other schools are interested, please contact me via email katie.graden@yahoo.co.uk.”

Last year Katie won a Diana Award for her work at a local foodbank, fundraising by completing the Ards Half Marathon and created a Facebook group called `Positivity makes the world a better place'.

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