The owner of Ripon's celebrity cat Badger needs your help

Naomi Walker and her much-loved cat Badger, who has become a local celebrity. Picture: Dan Ash.
Naomi Walker and her much-loved cat Badger, who has become a local celebrity. Picture: Dan Ash.

You've seen the photos of him strewn all over social media, and he's become quite the local celebrity in Ripon - now residents have the chance to show their support for Badger the cat's owner, who is doing a skydive to raise vital funds and awareness of mental health.

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Naomi Walker has happily embraced Ripon's love of Badger, and now she's hoping that those whose days may have been brightened by him, might like to sponsor her (click here to sponsor), as she bravely prepares to take the plunge and do a skydive for Mind mental health charity.

Opening up about her own mental health, Naomi said: "I was always ashamed of my mental health. I often had it used against me, making the problems worse, making me vulnerable and an easier target for abuse. People are now realising and seeing mental health problems as an illness. Now I feel I can talk freely about my issues without feeling embarrassed and ashamed.

"Nobody should have to face mental illness alone. Mind gives people a way forward, and the support they need - letting them know that they are not alone."

Naomi said pets themselves can bring great comfort and support to those struggling with their mental health.

She said: "Both of my cats, Bodger and Badger, have been a massive support and distraction for me. Pets definitely help with loneliness. Having something that needs you can be very fulfilling and give purpose.

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"I feel very proud of Badge and love how he gives happiness to others on his daily rounds. I’ve had messages from people who come to Ripon hoping they will get some Badger cuddles, which is fantastic. He has always been a very loving cat - I have had him since a kitten, and he will be eight this year.

Although there has been an encouraging increase in mental health awareness, Naomi feels that there is still sadly a way to go in some respects.

She told the 'Gazette: "I have been shut down many times by people who say things like, 'you can talk to me.' Then you get responses like, ‘'well everyone has issues,' which of course is true.

"But just because we all have issues doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about them, or yours are less important. The people at Mind and other mental health charities want to listen and will listen without any judgement.

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"It takes away from the feeling that you might get judged, or your words used against you. It’s very important to be able to speak to people about issues and worries, whatever walk of life you are from.

"At Harrogate District Mind they provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They run a drop-in service where they cook meals, run groups and courses, and provide support and signposting for anyone who needs it.

"They are currently running an outreach service as well, to reach out to more rural areas where people may be more isolated."

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Naomi will be doing her skydive on June 1, and has set up a JustGiving page for residents to sponsor her. A reminder of the link: click here to sponsor Naomi.