Amarjeet Khera explains how running helped him look after his mental wellbeing at a tough point in his life, and why he’s decided to run this years Virgin London Marathon for Lambeth and Southwark Mind.
So, finally, after seven years of trying my luck in the ballot, I was lucky enough to get an entry to run the Virgin London Marathon on 22nd April this year!
I started running in 2006 to improve my physical health and mental wellbeing a couple of months after my dad passed away suddenly at the age of 55. Back then I was seriously overweight and unfit, and struggled to run for more than a few minutes, but as things progressed I started thinking about ‘one day’ doing the London Marathon.
That ‘one day’ has finally come, and now that I’m half way through training, I have the huge honour of being able to say that I’m running VLM2018 in aid of Lambeth and Southwark Mind, a wonderful team that works tirelessly to support and provide mental health services to people in South East London.
My dad was a mental health social worker in Birmingham, and as such his daily life was centred around helping people with mental health issues, often at their lowest points, and often already sectioned or known to Social Services. He thrived on helping people and would often tell us about people and families who had thanked him for the difference he’d made to their lives by going out of his way and taking time to listen to them.
As a society we are all constantly reminded to watch what we eat, and to make sure we exercise in order to maintain our physical health and wellbeing – and we are all quite happy to talk and share our stories in this regards. Our mental health however is still something that many of us struggle to acknowledge, or talk about, let alone confront and actually do something about. There’s an expectation, particularly in big cities like Birmingham and London, to just get on and deal with things, but that doesn’t work, and for those of us who are unable or unwilling to turn to family or friends, having local organisations providing unconditional services can be an absolute lifeline.
Everybody knows the national Mind charity and the high value and high profile work they do in raising awareness and changing perceptions about mental health. But, like me, most people won’t realise that there are 134 independent local Mind charities in England and Wales, who deliver support services to their own local communities. These are small local organisations, responsible for their own funding and for providing their own services.
Lambeth and Southwark Mind happens to be the smallest local Mind charity in London, and their team of six staff, together with volunteers, field over 1100 calls each month; provides 19 peer support groups each month with more than 11 hours of peer support each week; and are the first independent Mind in South London to provide psychotherapy services for psychosis sufferers. And with 37,600 people living with a mental health disorder in Lambeth alone, they really are making a difference to the lives of many thousands of South East Londoners.
I first met Ajay, CEO of Lambeth and Southwark Mind, last year when he was kind enough to let me join their team for the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Since then I have been working with them on the design of their marketing and communications materials – that has given me a real sense of how hard they work, and how much time, effort, and of course money, goes into providing these invaluable services.
26.2 miles is a really long way to run, and to be honest, I’m still not 100% confident in my abilities! However knowing that every step I take will help raise funds and enable Lambeth and Southwark Mind to continue improving the lives and mental health of my fellow South East Londoners will make all the months of training, the sacrifice of family time, and the sheer effort on the day completely worthwhile.
So, please, dig deep, sponsor my effort, and share in the knowledge that you are helping others in their time of need.
Thank you for reading,