Over the last eight years, I have taken on many challenges to raise money for Mind, including a 10km swim, a two-way Windermere swim (21 miles), a half ironman triathlon and two marathons, raising nearly £17,000 along the way. Completing each challenge has been a proud moment but I was particularly delighted when I was asked to carry the Olympic Torch in 2012 as a result of my fundraising!
I started fundraising for Mind in 2009 when I took on the Great North Swim to remember my friend Emily who took her own life in 2006. Mind was one of the charities that her Mum chose to support at the funeral. It’s also a cause that is close to me personally as I’ve had recurrent depression for most of my adult life and two episodes of anorexia.
I find that having a goal to focus on and a routine of training helps me to stay mentally healthy and manage my recurrent depression
Raising money for Mind also gives me the opportunity to be open about my own experiences of recurrent depression and to talk about the problems that I have had in accessing treatment. I spent 58 weeks on a waiting list for talking therapy, becoming extremely unwell in the process, making plans to end my life. I have also been told that my openness has made it easier for people I know to speak about their difficulties and to seek help.
I am grateful to the people at Mind for the work that they do in making it easier to talk about mental health problems. During the time that I have been supporting Mind, I have noticed a definite change in awareness about mental health and an increasing culture where it is acceptable to speak out about it. Mind has played a big part in bringing this about. There is still much work to be done however to make sure that people with mental health problems are treated in the same way as those with physical illnesses.
This year rather than just doing a challenge for myself, I’m encouraging other people to get active as I fundraise
I find that having a goal to focus on and a routine of training helps me to stay mentally healthy and manage my recurrent depression. Regular physical activity is one of Mind’s Five Ways to Wellbeing as it is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety and it is easy for me to see why. Doing exercise almost always gives me a sense of achievement and a dose of mood-boosting endorphins.
This year rather than just doing a challenge for myself, I’m encouraging other people to get active as I fundraise. I am holding a virtual challenge called the February Five. The idea is that you challenge yourself to do some sort of physical activity based around the number five during February. This could be going for a 500m swim, cycling 50 miles, attending five gym classes during the month or simply going out for a lunchtime walk five times – anything that is a challenge for you. There is an event page on Facebook where participants can support each other and share their achievements and the first 120 participants will receive a medal.
While raising money for Mind is an important outcome, I am more excited about the possibilities of encouraging people to get active and boost their mental health at a bleak time of year. Please join in if you can!
You can take part in Verity's February Five by visiting the event page on Facebook.