It's OK To Say: Harpenden personal trainer on the benefits of counselling after traumatic experiences
PUBLISHED: 17:52 26 June 2019 | UPDATED: 13:52 10 July 2019
A Harpenden personal trainer has opened up about traumatic experiences in her life to explain the wide ranging benefits of counselling.
Jo Hancock has told her story as part of the It's OK To Say campaign, which was launched by anxiety specialist Stacey Turner alongside the Herts Advertiser last year.
It aims to encourage everyone to speak out about mental health concerns before they escalate.
Personal trainer Jo said her journey started in 2010, when she took on the charity challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for Prostate Cancer UK.
She had been inspired by men throughout her life and wanted to give back by raising about £6,000 with the trek.
Jo was doing it on one other condition - that her father, Terry Hancock, would get his prostate checked upon her return.
She said: "It was one of life's lovely 'isn't it ironic' moments. Dad went for his tests - positive! If it wasn't for that mountain we would never have known."
Terry underwent radiotherapy and went into remission later that year, but it came back in May 2011 and the 64-year-old died in June.
Jo said: "He was the most wonderfully, strong, positive and all-round caring individual in his last weeks, joking with the nurses, making sure we were all OK, chatting to me about life and cricket - wow did he love cricket."
Just months later, Jo's uncle Tony also passed away from stomach and brain cancer.
These bereavements spurred on the then-events manager to keep on fundraising for Prostate Cancer UK, including taking on the London Marathon in 2012 and summiting Mont Blanc in 2013.
Over the years, Jo has raised about £30,000 for the charity.
However, it was in 2015 while Jo was completing her personal training qualifications that her mental health took a turn for the worse - when she found out that a supposed friend had been filming her in the shower.
Police discovered he had also been upskirting other women on the Tube and setting up cameras in sunbed rooms.
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Left feeling "incredibly violated", Jo helped to secure his conviction by providing a statement to the police - but found her mental health deteriorated.
Five months later, when Jo was struggling to look herself in the mirror, she referred herself to counselling.
She said: "I found it really amazing to be able to talk.
"Once I started talking about it I started reliving everything that was bottled up. Being able to go through what happened, bit by bit, I realised I am not responsible for the actions of others."
Getting back on her feet, Jo said she soon won PT of the Year at Westminster Lodge in 2016 and Colleague of the Year at Westminster Lodge in 2017.
However, after her grandfather passed away in 2018, Jo referred herself back to counselling because she understood its extensive benefits.
She said: "I hadn't felt that low, ever. It wasn't a good place for my mind to be and to think people get even lower than that is just horrendous.
"In counselling we went so deep, back to childhood and through school and I found it really fascinating how I was able to answer the questions in my own head.
"It totally changed my perception of how deep I can be and I now know myself inside out."
She encouraged everyone to open up about their mental health to a friend, family member, or counsellor.
Jo said times have changed a lot since the early 2000s, when she was caught in the crossfire of a bar fight at the University of Leicester and a drunk student punched her in the face.
Although the case went to court, Jo did not receive any formal emotional support for being the victim of a crime.
After her second course of counselling, Jo felt mentally strong enough to volunteer at the Grand to Grand Ultra, a seven-day, 170-mile race around the Grand Canyon in America.
It's OK To Say specialist Stacey Turner, who has been climbing Mount Kilimanjaro herself over the past week, said: "Jo is an inspirational mountain of energy. Her passion, enthusiasm and drive is contagious and her story of seeking help and guidance through counselling is one to draw strength from and hopefully encourage you to reach out."
Stacey stressed that counselling can help everyone to "learn to accept all the parts about you (and others) and start dealing with things as needed".