Posts Taged mental-health

Duncan Whyte – Blog 1

Duncan Whyte – Ambassador Blog 1

Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a rather big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fabulous fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on
that couch watching mind-numbing sprit-crushing game shows, stuffing plastic junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, wasting your last in a miserable home nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, messed-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life…. But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else.

The immortal words of Edinburgh’s very own down and out poet Mark Renton in Danny Boyle’s 1996 film adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel Trainspotting. It is both aspirational yet empty, safe but frightening and an attritional social commentary on the spiritual pitfalls of western consumer capitalism. It doesn’t fail to strike a chord within me and is a monologue which only resonates with greater efficacy 23 years later.

In the year of the films release, I was a 14 year old schoolboy, desperately wanting to fit in and hopelessly failing, longing for my days in the Scottish education system to cough me up so I could reset, start again, find my way, find myself. For as long as I can remember, I have always been painfully shy. I remember regularly going into a local sweet shop with my younger sister who very eloquently conversed with the shopkeep with lyrical ease to create her bespoke 10p mix whereas I pointed and nodded awkwardly in order to fill those small white paper bags that only seem to be the packaging of choice for such confectionary conveyers. As puberty took its grip, I further withdrew into the safety of my shell and the concept of just being able to make it to adulthood was a defined goal. Then everything would be ok. A job, big television, friendship, family, kids…. This seemed like a pretty satisfactory objective for a young man who was the only male in a single parent household in the last throws of conservative Thatcherism to aspire to.

I did well at school and left with a suite of qualifications that left me in the very fortunate position to be able to go to University. I was lucky to be learning about something I was passionate about and there were a range of experiences such as flat shares and part time employment that supported me to integrate into society through the things I had learned, realisations that I had had and through some great people I met. I developed some coping strategies to manage social situations with less shame and embarrassment and to all ends was making my way in the world, if a little ungainly. I even had the electric tin opener and CD player to prove it.

Upon finishing my higher education, I had moved through a few relationships, meandered from job to job and got a bit lost. It was time for a new path, a new city, a fresh start. It was here I found my vocation, met the woman who would become my wife and is what I consider to be one of those sliding doors moments of my life. I embarked on a career, started paying into a pension, took out a mortgage, got married, and went on holidays although sadly I have never owned a shell suit to match my suitcases. This is definitely still a life goal. Over the years I had found a range of ways to get by, to overcome the introversion, nervousness, shyness and inhibition. Some healthy, some not so much. It took being confronted about this by my partner that Ied me to first seek help. I rang the GP and made an appointment. I wasn’t sure if I would actually go or not but I did. It was hard. We talked things over. It was then I discovered that I suffer from anxiety. Something that everyone experiences from time to time and is a natural and necessary part of the human condition but what for some people can be chronic and life affecting. What I had mistaken for shyness or social ineptitude was actually a disorder that explained many things. Regular feelings of unease, overanalysing trivial events, playing over and over worst case scenarios in my head in the lead up to future occurring’s in my life, feeling restless, trouble sleeping and an underlying sense of panic. With medical help I accessed a range of different support strategies including cognitive behavioural therapy (wasn’t for me), medication (made me feel worse) and face to face counselling (useful but limited to a finite number of sessions due to strains on our NHS). However, like Ewan MacGregors character in the film, I chose something else. I chose running.

I had always been a very active individual. I dabbled with running a little at University as a means to stay trim as my student diet threatened to catch up with me. I enjoyed it as it gave me a sense of purpose, provided an ideal excuse for further procrastination from my studies. This however was without a soundtrack as CD players were feckless to run with (even with the latest shock protection technology of the time) and MP3 was yet to revolutionise how we all listen to music. So I returned to running again in my early thirties. Mental health whilst still having an aura of stigma associated with it is certainly not the taboo subject it once was and much great work has been done to break down barriers in relation to this. Mental health is a topic I talk about a lot in my work and which as a result I have learned a lot about and I have grown to understand myself, my condition and how to manage this more effectively. Upon lots of reading up on the positive impact of physical activity on mental wellbeing, and on taking advice from the health services I had been supported by, I decided to get myself a pair of trainers and go for a run again.

I run most evenings and find this to be a cathartic way to wind down after a busy day. I can mull over the day that has been and the one that lies ahead in a fixed time period that allows me to free up my mind at other times to focus on the things that matter, my family. Running helps me be a better dad, husband, friend and colleague. I don’t always find running easy and motivating myself can be a challenge at times. However, I invariably feel better after having stretched my legs, body and mind and the sense of release and satisfaction post run always rewards in ways that I found other pursuits don’t. I like to enter organised events as they give me a target, something to aim for, a purpose to it all and undertaking mass participation events gives me a genuine buzz. I enjoy running shoulder to shoulder with other runners each with their own reasons for running and I have found there to be real solace and a sense of community amongst those who beat the street. I have found runners come in all shapes and sizes, every age, gender and cultural demographic are represented and from all diverse walks of life. The running community excludes no one and embodies a set of values that I have found provide a sense of belonging which sometimes sadly rarely exists in other facets of modern day living. I have medals to reflect my participation in 5k’s, 10k’s and this year at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival, I completed my first half marathon.

I am taking part in the Men’s 10k in Edinburgh this year because of my love for the city and my passion for supporting Men’s health and in particular male mental wellbeing. My grandparents live in Granton, not too far from Renton et al. in Trainspotting and I spent many a school holiday exploring the city’s streets. They are wonderful people and I visit them with my own children regularly. Furthermore, through my own experiences and through my work I have come to learn that men are less likely to talk about their mental health and men are less likely to access support than their female counterparts. Suicide is the leading cause of death in males under the age of 49 in Scotland and events such as the Men’s 10k can put the spotlight on such issues and demand a wider open dialogue about how such statistics can be turned around. I feel honoured to be chosen to be an ambassador for the Men’s 10k in Edinburgh 2019 and hope to see many of you reading this at the start line on November the 3rd on the Royal Mile.

In my next blog, I will reveal the charity that I will be running for in the event, what motivates me to run and keep running and what I have been upto in order to get myself ready for race day.Inspired? Watch, read and enjoy more content from our fantastic crop of 2019 Edinburgh Ambassadors at mens10k.com/edinburgh-ambassadors. If you’ve not yet taken the leap, secure your spot on a Men’s 10K start line this year at mens10k.com/mydetails.

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Greg Cann – Blog 4

Greg Cann – Ambassador Blog 4

OH.MY.DAYS…only 5 weeks to go 🙂 …that was the thought at the beginning of May.

With my place confirmed for Race to the Tower (RTTT) at start of June, and the Men’s 10k the week after, something got very real (as they say!). Decided to focus on the RTTT training plan to ensure I had the stamina – after all, if can run 52 miles (80 km) over 2 days, surely a 10km run would benefit?!

SO, longer runs… back to back days run… hill runs…runs with food (not as nice as sounds!)…runs in the rain – you get the drift! Feeling stronger, enjoying the lighter nights still, and fitting in some more activity around the daily grind of miles: touch, gym, playing with Max, work!!

While out running, my mind wanders – Various topics…music, work, family, self, problems, successes, the future etc etc. The time alone allows me the break to think (or to forget!) about things. This month a couple of thoughts came up:

(1) Why was I pushing myself to go through 52 miles? Well, that was easy…a weekend away, and the chance to sample some new sights and trails. Ran the whole weekend with NO MUSIC, focusing instead on my form and how I felt – pushing through the pain of the hills and the mileage by focusing on ME and what I know the runs were doing to my physical AND mental fitness.

(2) Then the 10k that would be following RTTT – was I stupid to have entered both? Did I deserve to be an Ambassador? Could I actually do the run justice? Thinking about these things allowed me to check off some points….maybe I had been foolish to sign up to all, but by pushing ourselves, it focuses the mind on what we need to do to achieve. By following the plan set out, I knew I had the mileage and ability to run the distances…something that we can all then take with us outside of running: FOCUS & PLAN. Did I deserve to be an Ambassador? When my mental fitness drops, I constantly question myself – we all do. Periods of time when we don’t have faith or confidence in our own abilities…but by again focusing on our strengths and having BELIEF & RESILIENCE, allows us to make the steps back up. Why couldn’t I be an Ambassador – hopefully some people have read the blog and if ONE person changes a belief about themselves, or makes a decision to start improving their, or someone elses, life, then it will be a job well done. We are not taking part in this to compete against others,  but to raise others up and help people achieve their personal goals.
 
I love the Men’s 10k – every year in Glasgow it take place and hundreds of men (& women!) turn out to show strength and enjoyment in something that anyone can do, but few choose…

It always falls around Father’s Day – a very interesting & conflicting time for me. As a Dad, I love sport & physical activity and love sharing this passion with my kids as well as spending time with them being a father. Each of my three kids are very different…they do/did enjoy sport,  and while some cant be bothered anymore, each of them has enjoyed had some special time with me because of some form of sport or physical activity and I wouldn’t change that for anything. June 16th is also the anniversary of my own Father’s death – this year will be tough for me…it’s the exact date of Father’s Day, and I will be running the Men’s 10k. My relationship with Dad wasn’t brilliant – we were different people, with different ways of living – especially as I got older. We went through years of not talking at all, only really reconciling once he had been given the news of his illness. Typically as men, we never talked about stuff, and his generation would never open up about how he felt. One reason the Men’s 10k is so important, and why I try to raise awareness around Mental Health, is because it/we need to challenge this!

I miss him every day, resent the illness that took him, and am so disappointed that he only met one of his grandchildren, and would never meet Ruby, who would turn out to be his only granddaughter. We ALL have our special reasons for running, and for me, this year’s 10k will be for him…

Whatever YOUR reason for running – whether it be the 10k, a marathon, ultra, or simply around the park with your kids…just do it! (Apologies to a well-known kit supplier)…

Get out there and enjoy – see you on the start line (or at George Square finish!)

THANKS FOR READING AND SUPPORTING…G

Inspired? Watch, read and enjoy more content from our fantastic crop of 2019 Ambassadors at mens10k.com/ambassadors. If you’d still like to be part of this year’s event, you’ll have to be quick! All entries close at noon on Friday 14th June! Sign up at mens10k.com/mydetails.

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Ross Russell’s 10K run for SAMH

Ross Russell’s 10K run for SAMH

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK – a statistic that resonates with 25 year old Ross Russell who has had some very real struggles with his mental health in the past few years.

Ross is currently in training for the Men’s 10K Glasgow on 16th June and has decided to fundraise for the Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH) – a charity who put mental health care and awareness at the forefront of their work.

Here’s Ross’ story:

“Two years ago, I finally opened up about struggling with mental health issues after over a year of not feeling myself and not realising that I needed help. The problems started shortly after entering my third year of university in September 2015. I was making a two hour round trip most days, wasn’t enjoying the course, was struggling to make friends and started falling behind with work and submissions.

After months of stress – trying and failing to keep up with assignments, I stopped attending and eventually dropped out in early 2016. I didn’t have a job at the time, so I was totally unemployed and no longer a student.

Job hunting wasn’t easy – applying to several jobs a day and hearing nothing back. When I finally managed to get a job in March 2016, I only lasted two months before quitting because I was experiencing panic attacks before and during shifts. I was dragged to my GP by my mum as I really didn’t think I could face going. I was put on anti-anxiety medication and offered counselling, which I accepted.

Waking up and spending every day sitting in the house either sleeping or applying for jobs I knew wasn’t going to hear back from, started taking its toll. I felt so low and my self-esteem was non-existent.

One Saturday night in March 2017, I broke down to my mum after a night out in town with friends. It was then, my mum helped me to realise that I needed to get help to get my life back on track. I was put on a course of antidepressants by my GP. Antidepressants were a last resort for me – I always said that I would never take them unless I really had to.

Three months later things started looking up and in June 2017, I was given a job interview for an apprenticeship with my local council. I started in August, was gradually taken off my antidepressants at the end of the year, and haven’t looked back.

These past two years (although I still have my bad days) I have never felt happier, and it’s all thanks to the support I’ve received from my friends, family and a few others who know who they are, especially my mum who I don’t think I’d still be here without.

Having experienced all of this, I want to do the best I can to try to help others who are battling their own mental health problems.

My message to anyone who is struggling: opening up about how you’re feeling is the most difficult part, but something as simple as talking to your loved ones can make the world of difference. People do care and things will get better.

Any size of donation for SAMH is greatly appreciated and will help motivate me in my training!”

To donate to Ross’ fundraising efforts, visit his JustGiving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ross-russell4.  Join in the chat on social media. Twitter – @Mens10k, Instagram – @mens10k, Facebook – Men’s 10K. #Mens10k #positiveMENtality

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Ryan Watt: Why I’m running the Glasgow Men’s 10K for SAMH

Ryan Watt: Why I’m running for SAMH at the Glasgow Men’s 10k

Father’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
than ever.

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
two stone).

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.

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