Ryan Watt: Why I’m running for SAMH at the Glasgow Men’s 10kFather’s Day was never a big deal in my family. Every year it panned out in more or less the exact same way, a trip with my sister in the car down to see our Dad at his flat in Troon. Equipped with a gift (usually a wooly jumper bought in the never-ending GAP sale) and a card. The gift and card being the only thing that distinguished this trip from any other weekly trip we would make to see him. In previous years, we would maybe venture out to the local cafe for a coffee and some food. Sadly, in more recent years, this visit was usually confined to his flat on account of his worsening health.
Last year, on Father’s Day, we again embarked on the car journey to Troon. The journey to our Dad’s flat. Sadly, on this occasion, it was to clear the flat out of all his belongings. He had passed away just a few days previously due to respiratory failure. Let me assure you, that day I would have done anything to give him the wooly jumper and card one last time.
My Dad had been suffering with COPD since around 2009 which naturally had a severe impact on his quality of life. To compound this, for as long as I can remember, he has had a running battle with his mental health, mainly chronic depression. Quite often he would have the upper hand in this battle, however, like many others who struggle with mental health there were extended periods where it got the better of him. I am no psychiatrist or doctor, but my experience with my Dad has exposed me to how mental health and physical health are intrinsically interwoven. There can be a vicious cycle between the two, a race to the bottom so to speak. In my Dad’s case, his poor physical health served to worsen his mental disposition, which lead him abuse cigarettes and cannabis, which only further worsened his mental and physical health. Like this, the cycle continued.
Throughout this sad time, my sister and I were acutely aware that any attempts to try and improve his physical health, and thus his quality of life, would be futile unless we were able to help him to a better place mentally. We tried going down the typical avenues to seek help for this, primarily through the NHS. Given the lack of public funding for mental health services, this usually involved a six month waiting list to see a psychiatrist, followed by another extended wait for a follow up appointment. In my Dad’s case this felt like putting an elastoplast on gaping wound. Looking back, I wish my sister and I had known about the incredible work of charities such as the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), which is why I am writing this blog today.
As difficult as the last eight or nine years of my Dad’s life was, there was still a lot of laughs and happiness to be had. The relationship we had together was less that of a father and son, and more that of two lifelong friends. We would sit and listen to music, usually starting on the Beatles but progressing through the decades up to the current era. We would play guitar together. We would laugh at his inappropriate jokes. He was very easy to speak to. He spoke open and honestly about his mental health with me, even from a very young age.
Looking back, I can’t say how invaluable that has been to me. When I was in my early twenties, I had a spell of mild depression and severe anxiety, the latter of which I still manage on a day to day basis.
Thanks to my Dad not only was I equipped with the vocabulary on how to articulate what these feelings were, but I had someone with whom I could pick up the phone to and talk about it with which made me feel so much better. My sister would tell you the exact same thing. The need to share this knowledge and vocabulary with others, as well as the need for increased mental health service provision, feels greater
That is why this Father’s Day I will be running in the Men’s 10K in Glasgow, to raise funds for the Scottish Association for Mental Health. SAMH are active in communities all across Scotland, providing mental health care and other vital services that are generally woefully underfunded by the government. I only wish I had been made aware of SAMH sooner. I cannot think of a better way to commemorate my late father and friend than to raise funds and awareness for a charity who make such a big difference to people suffering from mental health problems. Moreover, since his passing, my fiancé has becoming increasingly at pains to inform me that I have put on a few pounds (she’s going easy on me, its the best part of
Given the aforementioned association between mental and physical health, training for this run can only do me the world of good. Though he is gone, my Dad is never far from my thoughts. Every other day I play his vintage Hofner guitar, listen to the music that he brought me up on and espouse his, often inappropriate, sense of humour (much to my fiancé’s dismay). Though I couldn’t be with him last year, he will be by my side every step of the way this Father’s Day. Cheering me on from the side, booting me up the backside when I start to tire, waiting for me as I cross the finish line.
He will be the wind on my back and the sun on my face. This, along with the massive amount of support and donations I have received, will keep me going, right to the end. I hope to do him proud, along with everyone who has supported this cause so far. To anyone else out there running to raise funds and awareness for SAMH or any other mental health charity, I leave you with the rather fitting lyrics of one of my dad’s favourite Neil Young songs.
Long may you run,
Long may you run,
Although these changes have come.
With your chrome heart shining,
In the sun,
Long may you run…
Read more and donate to Ryan’s JustGiving Page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ryan-watt1.
To fundraise for SAMH at a Men’s 10K event this year, head to https://www.mens10k.com/charity/affiliates/?charities_id=88.