Thomas and James, running the London Marathon in memory of their friend

Thomas and James are friends from London who are both running the London marathon for The Mix as part of #TeamHeadsTogether this year in memory of their friend who sadly took his own life.

The Mix Staff

Why are you running the London Marathon this year?

Thomas: In the past, I have run periodically as a result of fat panic i.e. following confidence crushing moments after looking in the mirror naked. So, I’m running the marathon for selfish reasons, such as to get fit and lose weight, try and beat my brother’s time, and to do it before I’m too old. But I’m also running in memory of a very dear friend.

James: Having watched a lot of my friends participate in the Marathon, I don’t think I fully understood the immense effort made by everybody. I had been thinking about it, but not doing anything about it, until I realised it was the perfect chance to honour the memory of our friend who lost his life due to a battle with mental illness.

Why are you running for The Mix?

Thomas: Our friend sadly took his own life in his mid-20s. We knew he was in a difficult place, but we had no idea how hard it really was for him. There were a whole host of complex reasons behind this; the concerns and anxieties which led to his death were amplified due to a long period of escalating drug use. He did manage to get clean, but at this difficult age in his 20s, when everyone else’s life, career and expectations were panning out in front of them, he felt left behind. In addition to his other worries, and the anxiety as a result of the drugs, it was too much.

When I heard about The Mix, it felt like the perfect fit. If we’d been more aware of the difficulties he’d been facing, I’m sure we could have found him the answers he was struggling to find. Through the support of a charity like The Mix, and the awareness and publicity it can bring to highlight the difficulties young people face, I feel it’s a very worthy cause to help others who might be in a similar situation to my friend.

James: I want to help young people to open up and talk about their problems. Getting young people to chat about their issues is an area that needs essential help, because under 25s are perhaps overlooked as an age group, as mental health issues are often seen as part of the ‘growing up phase.’ If young people don’t seek help, their worries can develop into more serious problems. My best friend died a few years ago, and I only wish there might have been more help available to him brilliant charities such as ‘The Mix.’ After discussing mental health issues with my friends, it appears that perhaps a much large proportion of young people have mental health issues than people realise.

What is your personal experience of mental health?

James: I struggled with anxiety in my 20s due to money problems, work and relationship issues. These areas left me very stressed out and angry, and caused me to vent my frustrations in damaging areas. Unfortunately, this created a dangerous circle and made my situation worse. I remember feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. When I finally spoke to someone, I cannot describe the relief and only wished I had reached out earlier.

Thomas: I consider myself lucky to have avoided any serious mental health issues. There were times in my 20s when my anxiety levels were boiling over, due to the pressures in my life at that time (work, career, health, drugs), and manifesting in other ways. For a period, I found myself unable to do normal things that I had been doing for years, like going on the tube, walking over a high bridge or driving on the motorway, because it felt like I was going to die or go crazy. After seeing a psychiatrist, I was very relieved to discover that these were very common symptoms of anxiety.

After talking with a therapist, my symptoms almost entirely disappeared – something I never would have thought possible a few weeks earlier! I now know that these things can be fixed if you get the right help – if you leave them they can escalate. I’m far more open to discussing mental health with my friends than I was in my early 20s, but I’m still acutely aware of the stigma and shame that is often attached to it. This makes it difficult to champion to this day – even writing this is difficult. My advice to any young person who is struggling with mental health symptoms would be to talk about it as soon as possible.


Published on 20-Apr-2018