NINE intrepid explorers are pulling on their walking boots and tackling a monster hike to boost awareness of mental health.

The group are taking on the Three Peaks Challenge by climbing the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales - Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon.

They hope to raise at least £10,000 for Colchester-based group I Hear You, to provide help and reduce the stigma of mental health in grassroots football.

They hope to fund essential training kit and equipment, one-to-one counselling sessions for players and mental health first aid training for coaches and managers.

And they plan to work closely with the Essex and Suffolk Border Football League, which features clubs from across Colchester and Tendring.

Liam Joyce, a former footballer himself, set up I Hear You and is one of those taking on the challenge, starting on September 25.

He said: "Our fundraising goal is £10,000, which will be used to promote positive mental health within the Essex and Suffolk Border League.

"After that, we plan to carry out more fundraising and apply for grants to raise even more.

"On a personal note, I want to give something back to grassroots football because it's helped me so much in my life.

"The money will partly be used to provide essential mental health first aid training to managers and coaches.

"Specifically, our goal is to fund the 54 clubs to have one mental health first aider each."

Mr Joyce will be joined on the expedition by Shane Bethell, 36, Billy Rudling, 25, Rob Thorne, 37, Chris Stonadge, 18, Alex Hearn, 36, Rory Noakes, 19, Matt Greenley, 37, and Rom Betts, 40.

They are using the slogan "nine blokes, different journeys, same goal!" to raise awareness of their challenge.

Their initial target is to fund the training of ten to 20 managers or coaches by the end of the year, allocating a quarter of the money raised from the Three Peaks Challenge.

I Hear You also plans to offer free Speak Out groups, promoting positive mental health and giving people the chance to talk about their feelings.

These will take place on a monthly basis at venues across the Border League, including Stanway Rovers.

Mr Joyce added: "We also hope to buy essential training equipment and kit for all ages, including cones, bibs and kit for Border League clubs.

"Another quarter of the money we raise from our challenge will be spent that way.

"Our money will also be spent funding promotional material - banners, posters and flyers - to help signpost anyone struggling with their mental health to the aid they need.

"We want to have this material at each Border League club.

"Our final hope is to provide players and their families with any professional therapy and support they might need to promote their recovery.

"As a charity, we want to provide each club with a bank of hours that can be used for group, family and one-to-one counselling."

Mr Joyce, 34, suffered mental health issues following a bereavement and relationship breakdown, which coincided with the "twilight" of his non-league football career.

"It broke me but football and my footballing family reached out and saved me," he said.

"Football is powerful. The spirit of it is strong but players can also be fragile.

"After all, we’re only human and that's why I created I Hear You.

"Where the mind leads, the body will follow and that's why I wanted to help fellow footballers, as well as the local community.

"We're very grateful for all donations and just £5 will buy five training bibs, £10 buys 50 marker cones, £20 buys a training kit, £40 buys a player one-to-one counselling and £200 funds a coach to become a mental health first aider."

To make a donation, visit