LFR and Mental Health
Most people will suffer a mental health episode at some time in their life and LFR is here to offer support: frequent exercise in combination with talking about mental health issues, have been recognised as two great ways of beating the symptoms of melancholia, depression and other mental health problems.
There are a number of very common misconceptions about mental health and it is a challenging issue, especially for LGBT+ people.
The existing stigma, amidst the discrimination, violence and inequality that reigns in society, casts a very dark shadow and have a truly profound and negative impact on people with mental health problems. Navigating our way through life is difficult enough and very often other problems are added, relative to our journey in LGBT+ life and experiences. From on-line dating to perceptions of body image and to our relationship with alcohol and substance abuse, the challenges we face are numerous.
We don’t need to face them alone, though.
One of the main reasons I feel so passionate in my commitment to raise awareness of mental health problems among LFR is mainly because I want to make sure that no-one has to face a mental health problem alone.
I want to help our runners find the courage to share their own experiences with others and realise the great importance – and healing power – of speaking out. The more people open up about their mental health, the more it transpires that there are so many other people around us who are going through the exact same thing.
For LFR it’s about creating a positive atmosphere of openness, awareness and acceptance as to be able to address mental health in the same way physical health is addressed.
I also want to make clear that confidentiality and discretion are absolutely essential and will be fully respected.
The England Athletics Mental Health Ambassador programme aims to establish at this first stage a volunteer network in and among running clubs, all over the UK, to inspire people who are experiencing mental health problems to start running, to motivate ex-runners to get back into running, to support those running to continue. The ambition is to improve through running and talking the mental well-being of their members.
For tackling depression and other mental health conditions there are several treatments who can be used as alternatives to or in combination with antidepressants: talking being one of them. Exercising on a regular basis – and there is nothing more regular than four running and three coaching sessions per week- helps boosting the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, which can lift a person’s mood. One sleeps better after a good running session, one also thinks clearer and running clears one’s head. It is a well-documented fact that running, besides having a positive effect on your health and physique, reduces anxiety and stress.
Ever since I became a member of LFR, it’s going to be five years this coming May, I have been able to witness the extent running has encouraged self-esteem and improved confidence in myself and among many of my friends.
In the following months I aim to create and present the LFR Mental Health Action Plan, inclusive and accessible to all Club members, which will combine organising specific running opportunities, with inviting LFR members to share their stories and mental health specialists to talk about guidance and support.
England Athletics are currently carrying out a review of the Mental Health Ambassador program, aiming to take on board and implement a number of new recommendations. They have therefore decided not to process any new applications for Mental Health Ambassadors at present, until these changes have been made. Applications though will re-open in April 2018 and a sizeable club as ours may have, or better, should have more than one Mental Health Ambassador, an objective which I will personally and warmly encourage.
Finally and most important of all, you are not alone!
It starts here, with me and you.
It’s time to talk, it’s time to run and it’s time to ensure that we are all better together.