Todd's taking on a big challenge for mental health - running 10 marathons in Sierra Leone in memory of his dad
My name is Todd and this month, I am undertaking an extreme endurance expedition together with 13 of my friends. We aim to run 260 miles across the entire length of Sierra Leone to help raise money and awareness for Mind; ten marathons in ten days.
When I was 18 months old, my father took his own life. I have no memory of him, but my older brother and sisters do, and they miss him very much.
I'm 26 now, but until I was 15 I thought he died during a farm accident. Looking back, I find it strange that I got to 15 without discovering the truth. I suppose this was because there is such a taboo around suicide that no one wanted to speak to me about it.
"When I understood the truth about my dad, I faced an array of emotions."
At first I felt confused and abandoned. These feelings occasionally turned into anger. I was angry with my father, which then made me angry with the world and caused me to find myself in some horrible situations. One evening I ended up on the roof of my school screaming at the top of my lungs and throwing furniture into the car park three floors below.
As time has passed I have learnt more about the situation my father faced that day. He was over-stretched. He had four young children to feed and a farm to manage. It was lambing season, and staying up all hours to ensure the welfare of the animals caused sleep deprivation and stress. He had depression, and I don’t know whether he was too proud to ask for help or whether there was no support available at that time.
I can’t imagine what must have been going through his mind that day, but he could not see a way through.
"I like to think that if my father was to meet us all now he would be proud and wouldn’t have made the same decisions."
Sadly, we can’t turn back the clock, so instead of living in the past I want to look forward and help anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to my father. I hope to do this by supporting Mind.
We have organised the expedition ourselves and it has been inspiring to witness the power of such a dedicated team working to make this challenge a success.
The expedition will be extremely tough. The climate in Sierra Leone is 30-degree heat and 90 per cent humidity. Attempting to run 260 miles in these conditions will be demanding in so many ways. Our fitness and durability will be tested to the max and any holes in our planning will soon be exposed.
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Each morning we will be waking up at four AM nursing creaking joints and aching muscles from the previous day’s marathon. We will take down our tents, pack up camp and set off into the dark trying to beat the heat of the day. The sun will rise and the temperature with it, making every step more tiresome and difficult.
All of this will be a minor discomfort in comparison to the main difficulty of tackling a 260 mile run in the mind. We’ll need to keep ourselves going when we are completely exhausted, and find the willpower to encourage our team mates even when we feel like we can’t go on ourselves.
"At times it will be difficult emotionally, but to come through this and cross the finish line will be like getting through a tough time in life."
Having the willpower to keep going, the strength to ask others for support and the ability to give support in return.
Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.