By: Nick Puckett

July 9, 2018

A local woman is setting out to summit Mount Kilimanjaro at age 65 in an effort to raise awareness for mental health.

Claire Averill, of Highlands Ranch, will begin her eight-day trip up the highest point in Africa on July 12. She said the climb will be an intense struggle for her to bring to light the lifetime of struggle people with a mental illness suffer. Averill said this would all be new to her.

“I wanted to do something that I felt would be a struggle for me because of what those go through that are afflicted with any mental health condition,” Averill said. “Their life is a struggle sometimes. To me, this was something that was outside the box for me and would be a struggle. That was my equation.”

Averill is part of the Happy Crew, an advocacy group that raises awareness of suicide in Douglas County. Specifically, the group reaches out to high school students. Averill said she lost a friend in college to suicide and wants people to understand how to prevent it.

“We need to talk about mental health, we need to talk about mental illness. We need to talk about suicide and understand it’s a product of a mental illness,” Averill said. “That’s where this all starts. It usually starts in high school where kids for whatever reason don’t feel great. And if we ignore it, that’s what happens.”

Averill spoke at an event in Lone Tree on June 29 to gain exposure for the Happy Crew, joined by Andrew Romanoff, CEO of Mental Health Colorado. To donate to the Happy Crew’s cause, visit thehappycrew.org.

Originally appeared in Centennial Citizen.