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Walking the Path of Mental Health: A Freemason’s Journey

In this Craftcast episode, the hosts discuss with Chris Jones, a Lincolnshire Freemason, his coastal walk around Britain to raise funds for the Masonic Charitable Foundation, and his candid insights on mental health

The hosts of Craftcast with Chris Jones
The hosts of Craftcast with Chris Jones

In Episode 6, Season 2 of Craftcast, the Freemasons Podcast, our hosts delve into a heartfelt conversation with Chris Jones, a Lincolnshire Freemason on a mission.

Embarking on a remarkable journey around the coast of Britain, Chris shares his motivations and experiences as he walks to raise funds for the Masonic Charitable Foundation. But beyond the miles travelled and funds raised, Chris opens up about a topic often shrouded in silence: mental health. 

With raw honesty, Chris reveals his own struggles and how they've shaped his journey. His insights shed light on the issues many face but often keep hidden. Through his encounters with others along the way, Chris emphasises that his story isn't unique; it's a narrative shared by countless individuals.

With candor and vulnerability, Chris disclosed that his mental health had been in a gradual state of deterioration throughout the better part of a decade. During this time, he had been at the helm of an immensely demanding business – an independent school dedicated to providing education to young individuals who had been expelled from mainstream institutions. The relentless stress and unremitting pressure of managing such an intense operation, coupled with the ever-evolving landscape of governmental policies and regulations, eventually became an unbearable burden. Recognising that he could no longer cope with the impositions being placed upon him, Chris made the agonising decision to sever ties with the business he had poured nearly two decades of his life into nurturing.

With the business sold and their family home also on the market, Chris and his wife had initially envisioned taking a couple of years to embark on an extended journey of travel and rejuvenation, exploring the open road in the comfort of their motorhome. However, their meticulously laid plans were abruptly upended by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a global crisis that would profoundly impact their lives in ways they could never have foreseen.

Confined to their motorhome, Chris spent an entire year in a state of forced isolation, with his wife tending to their grandchildren – a role she had always intended to embrace once the burden of the business had been lifted. It was during this prolonged period of seclusion that Chris's mental health began to unravel completely, the threads of his once-vibrant sense of purpose and identity fraying at an alarming rate.

Despite having an abundance of free time and the ability to pursue any activity he desired, Chris found himself consumed by a pervasive sense of emptiness and despair. After years of leading a team of over 40 staff members and overseeing the education of 120 students, the abrupt absence of that responsibility and structure left him adrift, struggling to find meaning in his newfound freedom. The cessation of Masonic activities during the initial lockdowns only exacerbated his struggles, depriving him of the sense of community and camaraderie that had once been a source of solace.

With unflinching honesty, Chris admitted that he had reached a point where he entertained thoughts of taking his own life, his mental anguish reaching such depths that he found himself contemplating the unthinkable. Yet, in the midst of his darkest moments, a glimmer of hope emerged – an encounter with a Facebook post that would ultimately alter the trajectory of his life.

The post in question detailed the extraordinary journey of an ex-paratrooper who had embarked on a six-year quest to walk the entirety of the United Kingdom's coastline. Instantly captivated by the idea of such a profound physical and emotional undertaking, Chris found himself contemplating the possibility of embarking on a similar journey of his own. Initially hesitant about broaching the topic with his wife, fearing that she might interpret it as a thinly veiled attempt to abandon their relationship and responsibilities, Chris eventually mustered the courage to share his plan – a decision that would prove to be a pivotal turning point.

What had begun as a personal quest for healing and self-discovery soon evolved into a fundraising endeavour of remarkable proportions for the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). As Chris's intentions became known within the Masonic community, he found himself buoyed by an outpouring of support from his home Province of Lincolnshire. The Provincial Grand Master, David Wheeler, and Communications Officer, Stuart Pearcey, played instrumental roles in facilitating connections and securing accommodations across the various Provinces that Chris would traverse on his journey.

Throughout the captivating interview, Chris openly and unflinchingly discussed the myriad challenges he had faced in recognising and addressing his deteriorating mental health. He cited the pervasive societal stigma surrounding mental illness and a general lack of understanding as significant barriers that had impeded his ability to seek help and support. With a profound sense of purpose, Chris emphasised the critical importance of equipping individuals – especially children – with the necessary tools and knowledge to better comprehend and manage their mental well-being from an early age. 

As Chris journeyed along the picturesque coastlines of the United Kingdom, he found himself continually struck by the boundless generosity and kindness of the people he encountered, both within the Masonic community and among the general public. He visited numerous Lodges, where his openness about his own struggles with mental health often served as a catalyst for others to share their own stories and experiences – powerful moments that underscored the profound impact his efforts were having on individuals and communities alike.

With a sense of pride that resonated through every word, Chris spoke of his ability to raise awareness about the invaluable charitable work of the MCF and to dispel long-standing misconceptions about the true nature of Freemasonry itself. Though his journey was not without its challenges – including a harrowing near-mugging incident in Redcar and the discovery of a hairline fracture in his heel bone – Chris remained steadfast in his mission, drawing strength and resilience from the profound purpose that had emerged from what had initially been a deeply personal endeavor.

His remarkable efforts and unwavering dedication did not go unnoticed, as Chris was personally recognised by the Pro Grand Master during Quarterly Communications at the Grand Lodge – a rare and deeply humbling honour that further amplified the support and awareness surrounding his awe-inspiring walk.

At the time of the interview, Chris had raised a staggering nearly £35,000 for the vital work of the MCF, having covered approximately 3,000 miles of his estimated 6,500-mile journey around the United Kingdom's breath-taking coastline. With a spirit of gratitude and determination that was palpable in every word, he earnestly encouraged listeners to continue supporting his cause by generously donating through the designated link or by offering accommodations along his remaining route.

Chris's extraordinary story served as a powerful and undeniable testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the profound impact that one individual's journey can have on countless lives. His unflinching openness about his struggles with mental health had sparked important conversations and inspired others to seek help, shattering the stigma that had long shrouded such discussions in silence. Moreover, his unwavering commitment to his mission had garnered the admiration and support of Freemasons and non-Masons alike, forging connections and fostering a sense of community that transcended boundaries and preconceptions.

If you or anyone you know has been affected by any of the themes raised in this episode of Craftcast, you can contact the Masonic Charitable Foundation on 0800 0351690 or email MCF. You can also contact Mind at 03001233393 or visit Mind website. Samaritans are available on 116123 and you can text shout to 85258.

Listen to the full ‘Walking the Path of Mental Health: A Freemason’s Journey’ podcast


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