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Thomas Dunning: The Mental Health Runner

mental health running exercise

Any mention of mental health generally conjures up images of isolation, institutionalisation and danger to society. I want to change this.

In 2014, I suffered numerous psychotic episodes that would culminate in attempted suicide. It took me a long time to realise I had a problem but eventually I sought help from my GP and local crisis team. I confided in friends who ultimately turned their back on me and set up fake social media accounts in my persona, sending me messages of hate – all I could think about doing was taking my life to make everyone happy. After receiving various diagnoses, I started to cope with medication, therapy and comfort eating, the latter being my more destructive way of self-help. Eventually my weight skyrocketed and this was having a detrimental impact on my mental health.

In 2017, I realised that at my heaviest weight of 23 ½ stone, something had to change. I turned my attention to wanting to lose weight. With the support of my wife and whilst supporting a charity which helped to save my life, Mind, I began following slimming world which as a food lover suited me perfectly, and I started to run short distances. Just over 7 and a half months later I have lowered my weight to 16 stone, losing 7 ½ stone in the process and have started to cover larger distances.

I learned that physical exercise for myself was one of the best controls for my mental health: an outlet where I could tame the demons that follow me around every day. Now that my goal of weight loss is complete and I am using exercise to improve my mental wellbeing, I have a new challenge. I am now sharing my story to help those suffering with mental health issues to realise that “It’s okay to not be okay” and to do this I have set up my website: MentalHealthRunner.co.uk

I want to break down the mental health stigma and start conversations to prevent the hatred our community often receives. I want people to realise that 1:4 people suffer from mental health issues and many suffer in silence, feeling like they don’t have a voice and won’t be heard.

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