AMH Belfast City Marathon runner helping to smash the stigma of mental health

16 November 2018

AMH Belfast City Marathon runner helping to smash the stigma of mental health

One of the runners donning Action Mental Health’s purple jersey for the 2019 Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon was barely able to run the length of herself not so long ago.

But now 22-year old software engineer Tanya Matthews is on her way to becoming as fit as a fiddle in preparation for next year’s new route marathon taking place on Sunday, May 5.

The young woman is one of the many who has embraced Action Mental Health’s marathon mantra #behindthemilesandsmiles, which is all about celebrating the benefits of physical activity on people’s mental health and well-being.

Tanya is also flying the flag of Action Mental Health’s mission to ‘smash the stigma of mental health’ in light of research which has revealed that poor mental health is a growing issue for a large number of young people in Northern Ireland.

The Belfast woman said she chose Action Mental Health as her marathon beneficiary because, like the young people surveyed, she too has experienced episodes of stress and anxiety in the past.

She explains why: “Why Action Mental Health? Because so many, if not all of us, will encounter or have dealt with some type of mental health issue in our lifetime.”

She pointed to evidence from a study by the Prince’s Trust which surveyed almost 2,200 16 to 25-year-olds in Northern Ireland. It found that 44% of them said they had experienced a mental health problem at one time. The study also revealed that 68% revealed they always or often felt stressed, while a significant 60% said they always or often felt anxious.

The survey further found that a quarter of them felt they put too much pressure on themselves to achieve success, while a substantial 33% reported that they always or often felt hopeless.

“I would be lying if I said I haven’t found myself in one of these categories above, and I’m sure anyone reading this will feel the same. But by being open, and expressing to others that we’re not okay, whether it is asking for help or having a chat with a trusted friend, you’re taking a massive step.

“Supporting Action Mental Health, which provides invaluable services across Northern Ireland, helps so many people in our wee country and is one step we can take to help those around us.”

Tanya already has a half marathon under her belt, taking part in the Deep River Rock Belfast City Half Marathon, which wove a path through 13.1 miles of the city in September.

Though she chose Action Mental Health as her beneficiary, Tanya explains her initial motivation for signing up: “September 2017, I was very unfit and barely able to run 5km without taking multiple breaks. Flash forward to May 2018 and I began to enjoy running and was able to run 5km in a reasonable time, and I even tackled a 10km – which is a big achievement for me.

“Being the foolish person that I am I decided I would set a bigger target: the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Half Marathon in September. In my lead up to this I was able to complete a half in 2 hours and that’s when I started dabbling with the idea of a full marathon? Sure I’m half way there aren’t I?”

That achieved, she now has her sights set firmly on the full marathon in May and as she runs, AMH’s varied programmes, specifically targeted at young people, will benefit.

Programmes like Healthy Me and Provoking Thought are some of those which will benefit from Tanya’s efforts – programmes which exist to offer a lifeline to Northern Ireland’s young people. Like those around the world, they are increasingly subject to the pressures of modern day life.

So whether you decide to run, walk, relay or wheel your way through the Deep River Rock Belfast City Marathon, choosing Action Mental Health as your chosen charity will help protect the well-being of Northern Ireland’s future generations.

That’s no small thing.

AMH’s Provoking Thought programmes deliver workshops for 11-25 year-olds to support their mental and emotional well-being through a range of specially tailored activities, providing tips on coping positively with the challenges they face.

Likewise, Healthy Me gives children in primary six and seven the coping skills, strategies and resilience tips to promote good mental health. It also aims to prepare them for the stresses of milestones like school transfer tests and the transition from primary to secondary school.

Commenting on the programmes, Chief Executive David Babington said: “Modern life is stressful and can impact on mental health, so implementing strategies for protecting children and young people from stress, and helping them learn to cope with change is an extremely positive influence on their young lives.”

You can support #BehindTheMilesandSmiles for Action Mental Health by selecting them when registering for the 2019 Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon.  Already signed up and would like to start fundraising for them?  Simply email fundraising@amh.org.uk or call 028 9182 8494 for more information.

Entries are NOW OPEN at www.belfastcitymarathon.com via the MyTicket App.  The current entry rate will apply until 28th February 2019 with a final entry deadline on 12th April 2019.