Dunmow teacher is on a high after conquering heights fear

HRS sky dive

HRS sky dive - Credit: Archant

Falling from a plane may seem like many people’s idea of a thrill-ride, but for Neal Wilcox it would be up there with his worst nightmare.

HRS sky dive

HRS sky dive - Credit: Archant

Yet the 34-year-old decided to face his fears – albeit towards the ground – to raise money and awareness for people who suffer from mental health issues.

Neal, a teacher at the Helena Romanes School, took part in a skydive to raise money for Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity, and also get students asking more questions about the illness.

He said: “Mind do some excellent work, both promoting knowledge of a much stigmatised illness, but also at the coal face with counsellors helping people with a range of mental illnesses.

“Such illnesses can be debilitating on a daily basis and can, ultimately, be fatal. It affects people’s ability to work and their relationships with others.

“People do not understand mental health illnesses and so easily stigmatise those struggling.”

Even watching certain things on television can trigger Neal’s fear of heights. But the geography teacher wanted to show how people with mental illnesses are constantly battling with their own fears.

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He took part in the skydive, in Ely, earlier this month.

“I am not keen on heights at all, but my motivation was based on the fact people with mental health issues have to push themselves every single day,” added Neal, who is a clay pigeon shooter and coach in his spare time.

“Just getting up in the morning or talking about their problems is their metaphorical skydives.

“I am always telling my students they need to push themselves rather than doing just what is expected of them. That’s when I realised I had to push myself out of my comfort zone to practise what I preached.”

• Neal aims to raise £750 for the charity, and is close to reaching the target. To make a donation to his fund-raising page, text HRSN 66 amount to 70070 or visit justgiving.com/nealwilcox