Looking after our mental health has always been a priority, and never more so than during the lockdowns and the rather abnormal way of living that we had to adapt to during the worst of the pandemic.
As many people know, better mental health services and parity of esteem between mental and physical health is an issue that I have long been championing, even before Covid 19. I am pleased that as a country and a society we have become so much better at opening up, talking to each other about how we really feel, and seeking the extra help and support when we need it. I also welcome the extra £2.3bn of funding that mental health services are receiving as part of the NHS’s current five-year settlement, as well as £2bn to address the backlog of waiting times.
Over the last few years I have taken up running as a way of not only keeping fit but also looking after my mental health, ensuring my mind is clear and focussed. It was particularly helpful for me during the lockdown, as part of what was preparation for the London Marathon that took place on 3rd October. Unfortunately I tested positive for Covid a week before the Marathon, meaning that I have been unable to take part for the second year in a row! As you can imagine it has been a huge disappointment, particularly after all the hours spent training and taking care to eat a balanced, disciplined diet.
Not only are marathons a great physical challenge to conquer, they are also a great way of raising money for good causes and I had intended to run in support of Black Country Mental Health. Based in a new hub on the Bushey Fields Hospital Estate in Dudley, they do great work to support local people with mental health challenges including offering peer support groups, whereby service users can share their stories with others who’ve had similar experiences. I had the opportunity to catch up in early September with Nikki Wilkinson, one of those users, where she told me about the issues she has had with anxiety and depression. Her story was very inspiring.
Nikki is also a keen runner and she ran the Marathon to raise money for BCMH too. I was delighted to cheer her on during the race, and I hope that I’ll be able to be back out there next year!
The impact of Covid has really hit home for me during my time of being ill, particularly as it has also affected our family too over the last year. It is still important that we continue to take the virus seriously, and it is only by taking sensible precautions that we can keep it under control.
This article first appeared in the Halesowen & Dudley News on 7th October 2021.