Shropshire Star

Shropshire soldier stays cuffed to 5kg weight for weeks to lift the weight of mental health stigma

A Shropshire-based soldier has been carrying around 5kg of weight for over three weeks to get more people talking about the burden of mental health.

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Johnny Bradley with his constant companion

Donnington resident Johnny Bradley is a member of the Royal Irish Regiment based at Tern Hill.

For the last three weeks Johnny, 33, has been carrying around a 3kg medicine ball, handcuffed to his wrist with a 2kg chain - only taking it off to drive and sleep. He has already raised more than £700 in donations.

The 'medicine ball challenge' not only raises money for the Army Benevolent Fund and Combat Stress but also serves to highlight the invisible burden of carrying around mental health struggles.

"It's a constant burden," Johnny explained. "It's constantly in the way. You can't just set it down and walk away - just like mental health issues.

"Being in the military, it's still a taboo subject. There is a lot of stigma behind it still.

"I struggle with my own issues and I've served with men who have taken their own lives.

"Talking about it and raising awareness about it shows people who are struggling that they're not on their own."

Johnny Bradley serves with the Royal Irish Regiment and is based at Tern Hill

Johnny began the challenge on November 9, only intending to carry the weight for a week.

But after being blown away by the conversations inspired by the medicine ball, Johnny wasn't quite ready to put it down.

He said: "After the seven days were up I loved how much it was having an impact on people.

"I've had that many meaningful conversations, at work and when I'm out and about, and with people I wouldn't usually talk to, that I felt one week wasn't enough.

Johnny Bradley took the medicine ball up the Wrekin

"Having it constantly with me means I'll be in Aldi or wherever and people are coming up to me to ask me about it, and then we end up having a really meaningful conversation about mental health.

"They're telling me about their experiences and their struggles and that's really meaningful. That could be the only time they've ever spoken about it.

"It's so important to help foster an environment where people can talk openly about mental health - because that's the only way to get of rid of it."

Johnny brought the weight to AFC Telford, where he volunteers with the veterans' football program

For the last three weeks, the weight has accompanied Johnny throughout all aspects of his life, including work, school runs, his volunteering with the veterans' football program with the AFC Telford United Foundation.

On Remembrance Day, Johnny carried it on a hike up the Wrekin to remember his fellow servicemen and women who have been affected by the hidden burden of mental health and tragically ended their own lives.

Johnny hopes to raise £1,000 in his mission before putting down the ball for good - but he says he expects he'll be sad to see it go.

His journey can be followed online at where donations can also be made.