We’re often told that physical activity is good for our bodies and our minds, but we also understand that having a mental health problem can make it difficult to get started for a number of reasons ranging from negative body image, lack of self-esteem to practical reasons such as having no one to go with and not knowing where to get started.
One of the initiatives of England Athletics that Bracknell Forest Runners support is #RunAndTalk. It is a program that was created with the aim of improving mental health through running and is supported by Mind, the mental health charity. We want BFR to be a safe haven for everyone. Running helps our mental health. Talking helps our mental health and combining the two can only be positive.
Just as there are different ways to run (fast, slow, tempo, sprint, intervals etc), there are different ways to talk:
Chat and laugh with a friend about something that happened today
Discuss plans for the weekend.
Jog and analyse your Sunday long run with someone else who was there.
Ask someone if they are ok and support them whatever the response
Have a deep and meaningful conversation
Put the world to rights
Talk about the weather (if all else fails!)
At BFR, we are all runners. We have at least one thing in common with all other members - running - we can talk about running. Let's use this common ground to initiate conversations and improve the mental health of our club. When can we do this? Before, during or after any run with another person. This can be a club organised run, or a run that you schedule separately.
We have four Mental Health Champions (MHC) within the Club, Wendy Sharp, one of our coaches, Jenny Griffiths, Paul Thompson and Sean Jones.
What is the role of the MHCs? They are not part of the committee, but work in collaboration with the committee to promote mental wellbeing through running by supporting the aims of #RunAndTalk. The MHCs are not health care professionals, but have lived experience of a mental health problem, either personally or from a close relative or friend. They are coached to be able to support runners undergoing mental health problems including providing contacts for members in times of crisis.
The MHCs can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to contact us if you feel that you need support with mental health, with getting started or back into running due to a mental health problem, or if you have concerns about another member and you think we can help you to support them.
Some simple things we can all do to support each other, and reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues:
Run with someone when they ask you to because they aren’t feeling themselves. It would have taken a lot of courage to take that step to ask you.
Ask friends and other members if they are ok. Ask twice, and listen to the answer.
If you know your friends have or have had mental health problems, ask them about it. Ask them what you can do. Ask them what signs you can look out for that indicate they might not be ok.
Understand that what is normal for you, probably isn’t normal for anyone else. We are all different, and it is important never to judge but to try to understand.
If you are experiencing mental health problems, reach out to a friend or fellow member. Don’t suffer alone.
If you don’t have a friend or member you can talk to, contact the BFR Mental Health Champions (email).
Some helpful mental health links and support services:
Time to Change is a social movement led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, that is working to change the way mental health issues are perceived. Their website has a great selection of resources, including experience stories and how you can help support a friend or relative through a mental health issue. Why not follow them on social media?
The Mind website also contains information to support people with mental health problems, and their family and friends.
Telephone: 116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call)
Provides confidential, non-judgmental emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those that could lead to suicide. You can phone, email, write a letter or in most cases talk to someone face to face.
Telephone: 0300 123 3393 (9am-5pm Monday to Friday)
Mind provides confidential mental health information services. With support and understanding, Mind enables people to make informed choices. The Infoline gives information on types of mental distress, where to get help, drug treatments, alternative therapies and advocacy. Mind also has a network of nearly 200 local Mind associations providing local services.