The 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon is being called the 'Mental Health Marathon'; first and foremost, it is absolutely great to see the high profile of mental health in the media and the continued increase in awareness and people speaking openly. That this campaign is being spearheaded by Kensington Palace and the two Princes can only be a good thing, and they are to be applauded; they are sharing their lives in a way with which so many can empathise.
On a personal note, my 'Mental Health Marathon' started some 25 years ago when I first started displaying symptoms which would eventually be diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder; that marathon has metaphorically taken me on roads and trail high into the mountains and deep into the valleys, and it has challenged me in a way that no 26.2 miles ever could.
The 26.2 miles on Sunday will be the seventeenth time that I have run that most iconic distance and the motivation has, from day one, been to change lives in the way that mine was after the three suicide attempts through which I had no right to live. In running for, campaigning with, being supported by, and advocating with Mind, the mental health charity, every event in which I have ever run has been a 'Mental Health Marathon' and this is no different..
As I said to a friend on Monday, it is amazing to see the sea change in terms of how we societally speak about mental health but, on an individual level, it makes next to no difference to my life; I've been speaking openly and educating about mental health for several years and none of the new publicity changes that an iota. Moreover, I have said for some time now that attitudes have been changing, and that the biggest issue we face is a lack of resource and knowledge, particularly, in the NHS.
The London Marathon is, of course, one of the showcase events of any year, and very much so for me in a year during which I will run 12 marathons and 5 ultra-marathons for The Connection at St Martin's, Mind, Birmingham Mind and Manchester Mind. When I started this journey in early 2013 at a rather portly 19 stone, I never expected to run a marathon. When I lined up at the 2014 London Marathon, I would have had a Sir Steven Redgrave moment had anyone suggest I would run a second one!! So with Sunday as number SEVENTEEN, is it any wonder that my friends think I'm mental? Of course, they then remember that I certifiably am!!
And here's the crux; I don't want anyone ever to have to sleep on the benches of Victoria Coach Station as I did, to have to walk the streets in the evening hoping forlornly that someone will take them in. I don't want anyone to ever give up on life as I did and attempt to take their own. There is, as I wrote last year, a frightening and absolutely underappreciated link between homelessness and mental health, and I have lived on the extreme margins of both.
God's intervention in my life, and I absolutely hold my faith as the most important part of this journey, has given me the immense gift of life, a privilege I hardly deserve. Through that blessing is an opportunity, every day, for me to change lives. Whether we talk about the journey from suicidal and homeless to happiness and fulfilment, or from nineteen stone to marathon runner, it doesn't matter.
If just one person (and I don't need to know about it, self-validation and ego is unimportant) can stand up and say that because of my example, they didn't give up or they sought help, that's more than enough for me. In everything I do, from work and running through faith and friendships, all I can do is try my utmost to be a role model, one which says to others in pain that there is light and hope and that mental illness does not have to be a barrier to success and happiness. Moreover, if I can challenge the perceptions of others to see that truth, that's an even stronger message.
I'll put in the toil and sweat and I'll run the miles (899 already in 2017 to be precise) but I need you all to spread the message that life is precious and the lives of those affected by homelessness and mental illness are every bit the jewel that we perceive our own lives to be.
If you can donate, that would be great. However, If you can't, that's great also, as long as you simply make the commitment to openly having the conversations that matter, to challenging stigma and perceptions, to helping to change the lives of others, giving them hope and dignity.
If you do want to donate, here are the ways in which you can:-
Visit my fundraising page at http://bit.ly/runwild17 - all donations will be split between The Connection and Mind
Text ROMH66 £5 to 70070 to support Mind
Text ROHO66 £5 to 70070 to support The Connection (Homeless London)
Thanks to you all for everything you continue to do in my life, for the friendships, the hope and dignity, the support and encouragement, the inspiration to be everything I can be every day. See you on the other side!!
Copyright 2016. Rohan Kallicharan. All Rights Reserved.
This site is optimised for use with Google Chrome and may not display properly with other browsers.