Help us change the way the NHS views suicide, sign the petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/231772
The impact of sharing a story cannot be underestimated. It can take you down a path that reveals itself to you unexpectedly. That path led me as a non-runner, running 15 marathons over 17 days with my incredible friend Johnny.
It was in November I was sitting in a workshop titled ‘Challenging the Stigma of Mental Health’, surrounded by 60 people whom I didn’t yet know, where my eyes were welling up and my heart was feeling heavy. I listened as two incredible women shared their story on stage, sharing their very personal experiences.
Sabina shared the impact of losing her sister to suicide and her sisters struggle with accessing support from our health care system in the UK. I have two sisters who I love dearly. My heart sunk at the thought of losing them from this world.
To say I walked out of that workshop being touched, moved and inspired is an understatement. I felt compelled to support the workshop team’s mission. I know too many people who were affected by suicide growing up and saw an opportunity to contribute to their mission. How? By gathering signatures for a petition to ensure that good professional support from A&E would be available to everyone, in every A&E department across the country for people feeling suicidal. Crrently and sadly, this level of care is not consistent.
I decided I had two choices. To act small and ask family and friends to sign the petition and hope they did. Or to act big and do something significant that would compel many more people to support the petition.
What is BIG? How about running the width of the UK? I thought people might get behind a crazy journey to do what they can to connect, read, sign and share a petition that could have an impact on themselves or someone they love.
Johnny and I left on the 7th of March from St David’s Head to run 600km across the width of the UK. The plan was to complete the journey in 17 days, running an average of 15 marathons, engaging with as many human beings along the way about the petition as possible. We needed to open people’s hearts and accepted help from anyone willing to support us. Finally, we finished our tiring but immensely rewarding journey at Ness Point in Lowestoft, the most easterly point in the UK on the 23rd of March.
We did it. And I am still in shock that we did.
What happened on the journey was more than either of us could have imagined. Not only did our bodies and minds survive and thrive when running the 600kms, but we were also blown away by every single person we met. It was not the tough long days on all manor of roads that we ran, the crazy weather, the pain in our bodies, or our minds telling us to stop, that brought me to tears on our journey. Don’t get me wrong, the running was incredibly hard and exhausting — the toughest journey and experience I’ve ever had, where Johnny has never heard me swear so much. But the tears came because I felt so connected and overwhelmed by the stories everyone we met shared with us so openly.
We were welcomed into the homes of people we’d just met. We were fed. We were taken care of. At first I struggled to speak to ‘strangers’ about what we were doing. Not only does mental health and suicide feel like a sensitive topic, but starting that conversation with someone you’d never met felt harder. Until it didn’t. I decided to put my own fears aside and share it with all those around us on the run. After all, I was running 600kms for a reason and that reason needed to be shared.
I’d start my conversation in the street, in the services, in the pub, in the shop or wherever else I saw someone that could be open to ‘do you mind if I share something with you?’ To my surprise, people responded warmly every time. Not only were they prepared to hear my out, but I was most touched by their willingness and complete openness in sharing their own stories of mental health and the impact of suicide either on them personally, or on a person they love or someone they are connected to. It wasn’t one person who did this. It was everyone I talked to.
By the 23rd of March, not only had Johnny and I experienced many highs and lows of the physical journey itself, but we were taken on an emotional roller coaster across the country, running into Lowestoft on March 23rd with our friends, new and old, knowing that we had not only survived the journey but also achieved raising over 1000 signatures for the petition.
There is still time to sign and share the petition, which closes on the 13th of May. Every signature really does matter. Your signature matters. Please sign and share today.