Mental Health Awareness Week: Sue's story - why not?

Twice a year England Athletics ask people to get out for a jog or run with friends, family or colleagues and have a chat to support Time to Talk Day and World Mental Health Day. #RunAndTalk events are taking place from Saturday 6th to Friday 12th October to support World Mental Health day on Wednesday 10th October. Why not read how Sue found the benefits of running to her mental wellness?

A normal Wednesday night tidying around the kitchen and a Facebook message pings, “I can’t get through on the phone, ring me back it’s urgent” I walked out of the kitchen door into the garden where I can get signal, rang and asked what’s wrong? The sobbing distraught voice on the phone replied ‘’Pat’s hung himself, the paramedics have cut him down are working on him, he is in the ambulance now.’’  The paramedics and the young policeman who was there had worked on Pat for over 50 mins but he had died. Was this a surprise? No, he had attempted to take his own life twice before. Shocked? Yes, he was on the crest of a wave, just on his last placement for his PGCE and a job waiting for him. He had lost the battle against the disease of depression and anxiety. One devastating piece of news had taken him to a place where he could not return from."

In 2015 Sue’s stepson Pat took his life after struggling with depression and anxiety. Sue has used running to help her deal with what happened:

"The impact on the family is hard as you can imagine but running has been my crutch. I came to running late, 51 in fact. I had tried everything possible at school to get out of athletics. My first run was around 30 seconds, the first time I ran 5k I felt like Rocky reaching the top of those steps, I even ran a small circle with my hands in the air. I was running on my own at this time but shortly after I joined a local running group and with the help and sound practical advice from the fantastic Run Leader ran my first Half Marathon, Liverpool R&R. Running had become part of me in just a few years and I felt the benefits, more from my own mental wellness than physical.

After Pat’s death I was getting up in the morning feeling totally, desolate, lost and wondering how to get through the day, especially supporting our youngest who was fighting his own battle against anxiety. But for me, running, once I have laced up, even if I have spent the last 25 mins finding every excuse under the sun not to get out, helps. I have had runs with tears streaming down my face, but, always by the end of my run, I feel so much better, feeling positive that I can take on the what the world will throw at me and I even say that to myself, come on world I am ready for you, bring it on with a smile from the inside."

In 2017 Sue ran the London Marathon for the Royal Foundation's mental health campaign Heads Together before training as a Run Leader herself and setting up a RunTogether group to help others experiencing mental health problems:

"Running the marathon for Heads Together gave me the chance to start to talk openly about the stigma that surrounds Mental Illness, various press interviews and articles in local and national papers. I find if you are open with your experiences and feelings people will respond and feel comfortable opening up and chatting, sometimes in a group or just on a one to one. Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us, support us and not pass judgement. That’s why I started our RunTogeather group 'WhyNot' and joined the England Athletics #RunAndTalk programme as a Mental Health Champion. To give everyone the chance to start running, in a comfortable accepting environment and to have the chance to Talk. I chose WhyNot as the group name because Pat's favourite Bar in Luxembourg where his Dad works is called The Why Not, he loved taking the dog for a walk and stopping for a chat, it has happy memories for me of a most wonderful stepson.

Between 6th-12th October we're encouraging everyone to improve their mental wellbeing by starting, returning, or continuing to run as part of our #RunAndTalk campaign.