Beyond the Wall

Last month, ten dedicated Australians set out to trek the Great Wall of China to raise awareness and funds for SANE Australia, an organisation working to provide support and connection for people affected by mental illness, as well as their carers, families and friends. The Great Wall Challenge 2016 was set up last year by SANE Australia in partnership with Inspired Adventures. We hear from one inspiring participant, Adam Wood, about his experience.

Words: Adam Wood | Photos: Adam Wood and Jennifer Siegel


I feel we need to take time from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives to stop and reflect.

It can be after these moments of reflection that we come to steer away from the “I” and “me” and be in a clearer position to look outside of ourselves and be more open to the rest of the world.


I work for Australia’s largest fit-out and refurbishment specialist, SHAPE Australia.

Our Victorian Office has been supporting SANE Australia for the past year or two. After hearing about this challenge through my Office Manager, Jen, something resonated inside me and I felt an urge to get involved.

Not only do the people who work in the Construction Industry have severe links with mental health issues, but there were also personal motivational factors for supporting such a wonderful cause.


The Challenge was three fold:

  1. Build awareness for Mental Illness and SANE Australia;
  2. Head to China to trek along the Great Wall for 5 Days (or approx. 50kms);
  3. Raise (a min. of) $3,500 AUD per person to go towards SANE’s support services (with a team of nine people plus the CEO of Sane Australia, this would raise $35,000).

In recent times, people are more aware and, to a degree, understanding of those suffering from ‘milder-cases’ of mental illness, such as depression and anxiety.

There is, however, still a long way to go with dropping the stigma, especially for severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia/psychosis, bipolar, etc.


Upon reflection, I’ve always been a person who likes to show support for my family, friends and work colleagues, in good times and bad.

However I’ve never really felt like I’ve extended that support outside of those circles.

Undertaking this challenge was a way for me to offer that support.


Prior to the trip, my training involved gym to improve strength, as well as yoga/meditation for flexibility, strength, mindfulness and breathing.

I also went for a few mountain bike rides and trail runs to help with my cardiovascular fitness.


The most beautiful part of the trip, in short, was everything.

Our team members were incredible and inspiring.

The scenery was breathtaking.

We were able to immerse ourselves in some wonderful culture and sample copious amounts of delicious traditional Chinese food.

We had way too many funny moments to mention. Plus we also had an understanding that “what happens on the wall, stays on the wall!”


The most challenging thing was probably our third and fourth days.

Not only did we endure some of the greatest physical challenges due to the large inclines, but having to back up your efforts after continuous days and dealing with mental fatigue were other difficult factors.


I feel the biggest aspect of this experience was having 10 complete strangers uniting for a common cause,

and providing support to each other through physical and mental challenges.


Not once did we judge each other.

We showed a level of respect, care and love towards each other. Something you generally find in families, not in complete strangers.

We laughed together, openly discussed and consoled one another, and worked as a team to complete all challenges faced.


There was no ego shown by anyone.

We treated one another as human beings.

As a result we were not only able to successfully complete challenges, but we helped each other get the best out of all situations and ourselves.

Most importantly, we made friendships that will last a lifetime.


“the biggest aspect of this experience was having 10 complete strangers uniting for a common cause”

Listening to my team member’s stories of their lives and why they were partaking in the Great Wall Challenge, was a moment of perspective for me.

It allowed me to stop and be extremely grateful for my life, what I have, and all that is part of it. 

Photo 22-9-16, 11 38 12 am.jpg

We often get so caught up in our own battles,

we can forget that there are others around us also going through their own challenges.


I’m not saying we have to take on other people’s battles.

However, simply having a conversation with a person you know, if you notice a shift in the way they are acting, and being genuine, can go a long way.


Sometimes it could be as simple as asking: Are you OK? Or, I’ve noticed you’re not your usual self, do you have someone to talk to?

You never know, by helping and genuinely showing you care for others, you may in fact be helping yourself and your own mental health!


Some of the things I’m doing to help deal with my challenges and manage my mental health include:

  • Yoga and Meditation;
  • Try to let go and stop trying to control the things you can’t control;
  • Self-awareness and Mindfulness. Understanding when your ego is serving you and when it isn’t;
  • Remembering it’s not always about you.


Those that know me understand my passion for personal health, whether that be physical, mental or spiritual.

I’m extremely excited to have been able to combine my passion with building awareness for Mental Health and the great work SANE Australia does to offer assistance.


Our team has now raised almost $89,000 for SANE Australia, which is an incredible and very humbling feat.* We would love to reach the $100,000 mark before the end of October and our fundraising period.

How You Can Help: 

  • The best way would be to visit SANE’s website.
  • Sign-up to SANE Express, an email newsletter for those interested in SANE, their work and mental health stories;
  • Make a donation (one off or regularly);
  • Fundraise;
  • Check out SANE interviews with everyday people through”Living Stories”;
  • Bequests in your will or offer a gift through their “In memoriam” page;
  • Workplace giving; and
  • Volunteering;

To support the Great Wall Challenge, please head here. The campaign ends on 31 October 2016. 

*A special mention needs to be extended to my Employer SHAPE Australia, Power Yoga CanberraMindful Employer, Lululemon Canberra and my other sponsors for their assistance and support with my fundraising efforts.

SANE Australia works to combat stigma in a range of ways. They attempt to de-mystify mental illness by providing support forums, Factsheets, Guides, DVDs and other resources which explain symptoms, treatments and related topics. SANE StigmaWatch also tackles inaccurate and hurtful representations of mental illness in the media as well as harmful coverage of suicide. It promotes positive, accurate and responsible reporting of mental illness and suicide. 

All money raised will support SANE’s Services such as; Free-Call Help Centre, Website and information services, Mindful Employer Programs, Suicide Prevention Programmes, Aged- Care support and SANE Forums.

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