Clare from MoneySupermarket blogs about supporting Mind in memory of her husband.
In March my husband, Mark Hanson, killed himself after battling with anxiety and depression for 13 years. I knew about his illness, but I was one of the few, the only others being the doctors and counsellors Mark had seen.
Like so many people who suffer with mental health problems, he didn’t want people to know because he thought they’d think less of him, and despite appearing confident, lack of self esteem was one of his biggest insecurities.
Although Mark spoke to a certain degree about his illness, he kept a lot from me. He said there were some things he couldn’t talk to me about because I’d find them too distressing. Instead he shared those thoughts with his counsellors.
And I didn’t push him, partly because I respected his wishes and partly because I found it upsetting enough to deal with, so from a selfish point of view it suited me not to know everything. But I now wish I had pushed him to let me in more as I hadn’t appreciated just how severe his illness was and how much he was suffering.
I have books and books of notes Mark made, and although I’ve not yet read them all what they show is the inner turmoil he was battling and the anxieties and insecurities he was continuously trying to beat. And he tried so hard but ultimately his illness proved too much for him to bear on his own.
We’ll obviously never know if things would have been different had Mark felt he could talk more openly, but I believe the stigma that still exists about mental illness is a barrier that makes things even harder for those who are suffering. And if there’s anything I can do to help break this barrier down it will mean something positive comes out of Mark’s death.
The amazing thing is that I’m not doing it on my own. The support I’ve received over the last seven months has been incredible. My team at work said they wanted to do something to help raise money for Mind in Mark’s memory and so the seed was sewn.
We had a look at possible events we could do and plumped on the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Word spread around the office, friends and family and the size of Team MoneySupermarket grew to around 30 people.
So many more emailed in support and thanked me for bringing the issue of depression into the open. I’ve been surprised by the number of people who’ve said they either suffer, or have suffered from some sort of mental illness in the past or have a close friend or relative who has.
As well as running the half marathon, MoneySupermarket has signed up for Mind’s Taking Care of Business Campaign and I’ve sponsored Mind’s New Media Award, which I’m proud to say will this year be the Mark Hanson New Media Award.
Due to a few injuries, the ‘MoneySupermarket’s running for Mind’ team ended up being 24 runners and some great supporters. We had a fantastic day. Although there were some experienced runners, many of us had never run any sort of distance before so the group achievement was brilliant and there’s been a real buzz in the office since (as well as a few funny walks).
By my reckoning we’ll have raised more than £10,000 for Mind in total which is also a huge reward for all of us who ran. What’s more, it’s been fun.
We set up a running club after work on Wednesdays which helped with team the team bonding and the more experienced runners were led in training by our chief whippet, Susannah Clark, who put them through their paces (this is the person, who on her honeymoon in 33 degree heat trained on an air strip in the middle of the bush in the Sabi Sands game reserve near Kruger National Park in South Africa accompanied by a ranger, a tracker and a rifle. Probably sensibly, she left her iPod back at camp).
We raised more than £500 by holding a cake and jam sale at work which identified some star bakers – next to come will be a chutney and mincemeat sale in the run up to Christmas and in November some of the team will be spending a Saturday helping people pack their shopping at M&S in Chester.
My life suddenly imploded on 2 March and although I still have a long way to go to fill the void that has been left and establish a new normal, it hasn’t all been lows. There have been some real highlights too and MoneySupermarket will definitely be running the Royal Parks Half Marathon again next year – I think we might even tempt a few more people to join us.
The positive impact Mark had on so many people while he was alive may have ended, but hopefully his legacy will also help others.
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.