Marathon effort to end mental stigma

By Lucy Todman | Minsterley | News | Published:

When 62-year-old Alistair Bates from Minsterley, near Shrewsbury crosses the finish line of the London Marathon on Sunday ( April 23), he knows he will be helping to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health.

Alistair is running for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry’s Heads Together team.

He is a supporter of Best Beginnings working to try and end the stigma around mental health.

Heads Together is the charity of the year for this year’s marathon. Every runner will be given a blue Heads Together headband to wear and The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry will be there on the day to cheer them on.

Alistair met Prince Harry yesterday (WEDS) when the young Royal opened the London Marathon Expo at ExCel in London's Docklands.

It was the 32-year-old's first appearance since disclosing he sought counselling to come to terms with the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. “He spoke to us for about five minutes," said Alistair. "When he opened up the other day, he was really opening the door for all of us to do the same.

”I went into early retirement in 2009 for my career in special education following a breakdown that happened so suddenly, overnight, that it was classed as an accident. Talking to people about what I was going through - to my wife and my counsellor - helped to get me through – two heads are definitely better than one. I then began to exercise after 18 months of doing literally nothing – unable to face the world. Exercise is the one thing I felt that I could control so exercising and setting targets, like the London Marathon, has been vital to my recovery”

Heads Together wants to encourage millions of people across the UK to have a conversation about their mental health.

Alistair, chose to take on the London Marathon with Heads Together because of his of own struggles with mental health. He is fundraising for Best Beginnings, one of the Heads Together charity partners and creator of the free multi award winning app, Baby Buddy that supports parents in the journey to parenthood and beyond.

Alistair added: "I am not a runner and I am really slow but I love having targets to motivate me and I am honoured to be running for Best Beginnings. I recently attended the launch of their maternal mental health films series, Out of the Blue, and was really moved by parents talking about the difficulty of sharing mental health struggles at a time of your life when you are expected to feel happy. I think people opening up about their difficulties encourages others to do the same"

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry said : "Since we launched Heads Together last May, we have seen time and time again that shattering stigma on mental health starts with simple conversations. When you realise that mental health problems affect your friends, neighbours, children and spouses, the walls of judgement and prejudice around these issues begin to fall. And we all know that you cannot resolve a mental health issue by staying silent."

Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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