Local climber aiming to conquer Kilimanjaro
Philip Butterworth is preparing for his second climb of Mount Kilimanjaro — this time for charity.
His cause is deeply personal: after his own recovery from depression, and the loss of his friend Jessica Gibbons to suicide (see below), Mr Butterworth returns to the Tanzanian mountain — the highest in Africa — in support of the Bermuda Mental Health Foundation.
His first climb in February 2013 came from a decision to challenge himself after overcoming depression.
Shortly thereafter, he met his present girlfriend and started visiting Bermuda.
“Jess was my girlfriend's best friend — she was one of the first to welcome me to the island,” Mr Butterworth said.
“When Jess committed suicide, it brought it home to me. It's all too easy to suffer in silence — to say you're OK when someone asks.”
Ms Gibbons lost her life in April last year. In the aftermath, her father, Chris Gibbons, set up the support group Losing Someone by Suicide.
Depression and mental health issues remain taboo, in Bermuda as well as everywhere else, Mr Butterworth said.
“It's almost like people are ashamed to admit they're depressed or on antidepressants.”
Mr Butterworth had “no idea” what caused his own depression, which struck in 2012.
He found himself struggling to get out of bed. Once fond of cooking, he lived off packaged meals, feeling like breaking into tears for no reason.
Mr Butterworth found help, and talked through his experiences with family and friends.
He had never been to Africa, let alone climbed a mountain, when he settled on Kilimanjaro: “I wanted something that would push me out of my comfort zone,” Mr Butterworth said.
His last journey up and back down the mountain, along a route known as the Rongai, took eight days, camping along the way.
On June 1, he heads back, along with his friend Sean Riggs, who is raising funds for the British charity Sands, which helps people through stillbirths.
The two are taking a different route to the summit, from the lush forests of the base to the arid scree of Kilimanjaro's flanks — and finally the peak, where ice still lingers.
Their climb starts this Friday.
Mental health affects “anyone, from anywhere, at any time”, Mr Butterworth said. To help support Mr Butterworth and the Bermuda Mental Health Foundation, people can donate at www.gofundme.com/mt-kilimanjaro-mental-illness and use the hashtag #BMHFMTKilimanjaro to keep track of his climb.
To learn more information about the Bermuda Mental Health Foundation, visit www.bmhf.bm.