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Thomas Dunning: Using Running To Improve Mental Health

by Alexandra Parren
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Running mental health

2014, the year where I entered the world of mental health. A year which after I finished my mechanical engineering degree, my brain decided to pick up some emotional baggage and open it up for essentially the world to see.

My brother died back in 2009, and that was the start of my studies; having more important things to worry about I bottled it up hoping for it never to see the light of day. Being ignorant to mental health and believing that there was no such thing, people should just “man up” and how it would never affect me.

That year I attempted suicide. 

This was a time of questioning the very fabric of reality where I was plagued with not only arguments from people I have never met, being stalked by my late brother as if he was in the flesh, and seeing blood drip from my hands while my wife was reassuring me every time that “there is nothing there.” I did not believe it at the time but they were just simply manifestations my own brain was throwing at me. 

Before receiving any form of diagnosis or even seeing any form of medical professional, I turned to the ever-favoured friend the world over; Google. I’m sure you know where this is all going, search online for a symptom and all of a sudden you have a death sentence! I’m not the only one; the mental health foundation has recently discovered that 48% of the UK population would rather turn to google than speak to their own GP and this still scares me. 

Besides the issues that I was experiencing, it took two years until I realised what the real problem was; I would not talk to anyone. It wasn’t until I saw my GP with my wife’s support where it finally hit home that I was suffering with mental ill health.

It wouldn’t be until a few years later where I was at my heaviest of 23 and a half stone when I picked up running. Again with the support of my wife I found running as an outlet.

An outlet where I could lace up, headphones in and then just go wherever the pavement takes me; without doing it yourself you won’t realise that not only does it take you on a physical path but something just unlocks in your mind. One where you can look back and say “yes! I did that!” and it even sets you up for the entire day!

Within 8 months, I lost 8 stone, learnt self help techniques for my mental health diagnosis of PTSD, Severe Anxiety Disorder and Borderline personality disorder; but also how much running and physical exercise helps with all of that!

Running and physical exercise should be shared not only for physical health reasons, but by sharing my story, and breaking down stigma; we should use this for mental health reasons also!

My story isn’t one which is special, it’s one so common that 1 in 4 people experience and most unfortunately are too worried of social stigma attached to mental health. Lets stamp out stigma and run forward to a more supported community!

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