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Seren talks about her first mental health conversation and why she's running the London Marathon for Newport Mind.
Seren kept her anxiety to herself for years before opening up to her Dad whilst out running. Now she and her Dad are running the London Marathon for Newport Mind and encouraging others to start conversations about mental health.
My experience of mental health problems started at a young age. I was always a fairly anxious child, and I found moving from a small primary school to a larger secondary difficult.
My anxiety got worse when I was 18 after my dad suffered a cardiac arrest. I had experienced panic attacks before, but they became far more frequent after this. Although I was struggling, I didn’t talk to anybody because I didn’t want to add to my parents worry, and my school weren’t very discreet about arranging support.
I found starting university really difficult. There’s a lot of pressure on you to have a good time, go out lots and meet your friends for life, and I didn’t feel I was living up to this picture – I found it easy to talk to and get on with people, but didn’t feel like I really fit in. This, along with stresses of money, demands of the degree and finding a house for the next year made me feel really down, and I coped with this by going home a lot.
"Running is absolutely beneficial for my mental health - it makes me feel as though I have achieved something worthwhile."
On one of my visits home from university, I opened up to my Dad about my mental health whilst out running. I’ve been running for quite a few years and regularly since I was 14 or 15. My dad has always run and he uses it as a way of de-stressing. So, since I was tiny, I’ve been aware of running as a way of helping improve mental wellbeing.
Having that time together away from home just the two of us was so freeing, and we talked through how I’d been feeling. Words like “depression” and “anxiety” were never really said – it was more “How are you feeling today?” and being open about those feelings. Now, I always encourage my friends to talk about their mental health and how they’re feeling. There’s no problem too small to talk about – if something’s affecting you, then it’s worth the conversation.
"Words like “depression” and “anxiety” were never really said – it was more “How are you feeling today?” and being open about those feelings."
I think mental health it is one of the most important things for people my age. There’s so much pressure on us. Once I talked openly about my mental health, I discovered that many of my friends have issues too. The more open young people are, the more likely it is that we can get help early. I think that things could have been easier for some people I know, had they been able to speak up earlier without fear.
When I decided to run the marathon, there was no doubt that I’d want to run to raise money for mental health. This year I’m raising money for Newport Mind. So far I’ve raised £1,170 and hope to reach a target of £2,000.
I’ve been training for the marathon in Bristol by doing shorter runs (it’s very hilly) and at the weekends I’ve been doing longer runs in the country. The training has been going well and I’ve managed to run 16 miles which is great. I’ve got a sore knee at the moment but am seeing a physio today and hoping that this won’t hold me back.
"When I decided to run the marathon, there was no doubt that I’d want to run to raise money for mental health."
I attended the London Heads Together training day and found it very useful indeed. It got me motivated to start doing proper training. The trainer was really reassuring and great at building up confidence. He said that the important thing is to finish, the time doesn’t matter, and he is right.
Running is absolutely beneficial for my mental health. It makes me feel as though I have achieved something worthwhile. I’ve set goals in my training and, as I’ve improved, I’ve been able to achieve them. I attempted the London marathon two years ago, but due to an unfortunate injury I had to stop running. This year I’m really looking forward to finally crossing the finish line!
Read about types of mental health problems
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.