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- ‘St. Patricks Day’: How it is celebrated in Ireland and around the world
Running with a Black Dog – Part 1 – One Man’s Journey To Help Remove the Stigma of Mental Health
By Richard Kelly | Tuesday 10 February 2015
My name is Richard. I am a 40 year old, married father of two children, and work as a Marketing Manager. I will be running the Fleet Half-Marathon on Sunday 22 March 2015 in Hampshire. It is my first race for over twenty years, and I am hoping to:
a) raise £1,000 for The Matthew Elvidge Trust, and;
b) increase awareness and to help remove the stigma that surrounds depression and mental health in general, and encourage young people to ask for professional help.
What is Mental Health?
‘A state of emotional and psychological well-being in which an individual is able to use his or her cognitive and emotional capabilities, function in society, and meet the ordinary demands of everyday life.’
Good health, both mental and physical, improves performance at school, college, university and the workplace…..and improves peoples’ chances of getting a job if they’re out of work. We also know that:
50% of adult mental health problems start in childhood.
75% of people who take their own life don’t access health services.
Tragically, the word mental health is associated with mental ill health and problems. This is why people shy away from understanding and getting involved.
Who Does It Affect?
I have depression. Having been diagnosed in November 2014 (by my excellent GP), I am currently going through my first ever professionally supported attempt at recovery from this illness. I have had depression in various forms throughout my life from what I believe, quite a young age. I understand the pain and difficulty that depression causes. Statistically in the UK, 1 in 4 people will at some point in their life be affected by depression.
The interruption to my life that it has caused is painful to now comprehend. The joy it has taken and the opportunities it has removed are cruel. On paper, my life was great. But why didn’t I feel happy? Why did I just want to stay in bed? Why was my mind so full of black thought every day about death, about loss and tragedy? Why could I not sleep at night without laying there for hours in “that well of broken despair”? Why would I cry my eyes out for no particular reason? Why did I not care about myself enough to feel that dying was as easy an option as ordering something off a restaurant menu? Why did I feel no self-worth or appreciation of myself? Why did all this not shock me or, why didn’t I see it?
The simple answer today is, I don’t really know why. I’ve always considered myself a fairly emotionally intelligent person. People would often seek my advice or confidence in a delicate matter. But I couldn’t clearly see what was happening to me, day after day, for so long. The world my mind inhabited at times was terrible. But for me, that is the oxymoron of this illness. You are locked down in a debilitating spiral of low mood, depression or suicidal thought. Without professional help, it can be nigh on impossible to alleviate these thoughts and behaviours to speak up / reach out / get the correct help. Or to just understand, that it was happening to you.
The Matthew Elvidge Trust
The Matthew Elvidge Trust was set up five years ago by parents Hamish & Linda Elvidge in response to the suicide of their third child Matthew, at the age of 23, after a very short period of anxiety and depression. The devastating impact this has had on the family is, of course, profound.
Their journey as a family has involved setting up the Trust, learning about anxiety and depression…….as well as mental health and suicide prevention and taking action to help others. In the UK in 2012, there were 5,981 suicides in people aged 15 and over. That is a shocking number of lives being lost; far, far too many.
The Trust’s main priority is ensuring that students at school and university understand how to keep mentally well and have straightforward access to the right help when they need support.
The Trust believes that we are all on a health continuum, sometimes OK and sometimes not, day to day, even hour to hour, which is often driven by what’s happening in our lives.
However, there is huge stigma around mental health largely because it’s seen as a problem that no one understands, with fear driving our response and, as a result, people not seeking help, particularly men. But this makes no sense, as mental health is simply the ability to cope with everyday life and affects everyone. So why is there stigma about mental health when we all have it? We need to change this… together.
So, Why Am I Running The Fleet Half-Marathon?
For the first time in my life I have seen the world clearly through “un-depressed eyes”. My mind is alive to the tiniest slivers of happiness and appreciation for what I see and feel now. And I shall let you into a little secret about my life as well… I really, really like it! It is a truly great and wonderful place. I have love and joy in my heart today because I have been shown that there are other ways to deal with depression, other than just ignoring it. A professional diagnosis is key, as well as daily lifestyle changes which for me, are:
Eating properly each day and regularly; it has given a new found appetite whilst I have significantly reduced my alcohol consumption.
A better sleeping pattern and routine – I sleep contentedly now as a result of the regular exercise and a good diet.
This triangle of simple activity is a self-fulfilling procedure that has given me improved mental and physical strength. I have greater clarity of thought, thinking and feeling, deeper feelings of empathy, and a positivity to make further steady changes whilst concentrated on these basics. I have been truly focussed on this plan, and the depth and breadth of the changes to me has happened very quickly. It is also called medication. It is called talking, sharing and understanding what caused my depression. Realising the pain it caused those close and my loved ones. (They now of course, have to begin their own understanding of my illness and my recuperation, but I will talk about that another time.) Your journey to recovery could be very different to this, but for me, it really, really works.
Exercise has been the major factor in aiding all this. So I needed a target and a motivation to sustain me during this time. Hamish Elvidge very kindly invited me to run for the Trust. I had begun to swim 2/3 times a week and run twice a week anyway at the end of November. I had begun my recovery, but now I had another reason to succeed: to help others, to get help. This has changed my world!
Mojomums Weekly Blog
Many thanks indeed to Mojomums for inviting me to post a weekly blog. I will try and limit the number of photographs of me sweating in Lycra! I will talk a bit more about the exercise; I’m no expert by any means… but also about how opening up about my depression has been a revelation to me, and for many others as well. It has created an enriching ripple of positivity and instigated many conversations with people sharing their stories.
Many people have had their lives touched by mental illness at some point; people are tremendously generous and supportive when you have spoken about it. Some have actually come forward to say they will now seek professional support as a result of hearing my story. That is worth its weight in gold to me, and I feel so very proud. It makes me even more passionate and determined to contribute to this vital charity.
For those people who don’t have this network of support, or don’t feel they know how to begin their recovery and seek professional help or advice, I kindly ask that you sponsor me to enable the great work of The Matthew Elvidge Trust at:
Last week was ‘Time To Talk Day’: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/talking-about-mental-health – an event led by the charity Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. Hopefully you will find some useful tips and information on this website to help you, and somebody you feel might be struggling, or may need professional help.
Please do understand that this would have been impossible for me to do six months ago. You can change your life very quickly…
I really hope that you will enjoy sharing this journey of exercise and self-development with me over the next six weeks until the race starts…
Thank you for reading my story,