I love the London Marathon but this year I loved it even more than usual. The ‘Mental Health Marathon’, as it’s been fondly dubbed, raised tons of money and awareness for loads of different charities - such as Alzheimers UK, Lymphoma Association, CLIC Sargent, Diabetes UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and many more - but this year the ‘Heads Together’ campaign was the thread that bound them all together. Many of the runners wore Heads Together headbands, no matter which charity they were running for, in recognition of their support for this fantastic campaign.
Heads Together aims to change the conversation, get people talking and end the stigma around mental health. It’s spearheaded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, but at its heart is a partnership between several charities with many years of experience in tackling stigma, raising awareness, and providing vital help for people with mental health issues. Organisations such as MIND, CONTACT and CALM.
The campaign’s website explains, ‘There has been huge progress made to tackle stigma surrounding mental health in recent decades, but it still remains a key issue driven by negative associations, experience and language. Through this campaign, Their Royal Highnesses are keen to build on the great work that is already taking place across the country, to ensure that people feel comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing, feel able to support their friends and families through difficult times, and that stigma no longer prevents people getting help they need.’
Whatever your opinion of the monarchy, there can be absolutely no doubt that this intervention - and sharing of their mental health experiences - by the Royal three is having a massive positive impact. Not only is their audience inspired and encouraged by their example in talking openly, but their candour in the face of their very public lives is doing so much to help raise the profile of the Heads Together partner organisations.
As Adam Hill said during last week’s ‘Last Leg’, “…if you’re one of the most famous people on the planet drawing attention to one of the most overlooked issues in society, surely it’s almost the single best thing you can do…”
They really do seem like genuinely nice people who want to do everything they can to help change the national conversation on mental health and I just have so much respect for anyone who’s brave enough to open up, talk about their pain and suffering and share their vulnerabilities - no matter what kind of hand they’ve been dealt or colour of spoon in their mouth.
It’s particularly apt that the campaign chose the London Marathon as its headline event as being active is one of the best things for our mental health, but Heads Together is really all about encouraging us as a society to talk much more openly about how we’re feeling and to seek help when we need it.
I’ve been involved with various organisations over the years, such as the Samaritans and my local hospice, where I’ve utilised my ‘being me’, my training, my passion and (I’m often told) my natural skills to genuinely listen to people. It’s just something that’s always been a part of who I am, to love to listen. But the ethos of the Heads Together campaign has served as a nice little bit of encouragement for me that I'm on the right track with my recent own new initiative, The Peloton.
I’d been toying with the idea of facilitating something that was about creating spaces for conversation for a long time and eventually settled on the notion of creating groups for women. The Peloton is still (and probably always will be) a bit of a work in progress, and I probably have way too many ideas about the different things I’d like to try. But I’m pleased to have at last got something off the ground and, six weeks in, it seems to be working fairly well.
The Peloton isn’t about counselling groups or prescribed therapy. Just like gyms and running tracks are places for generally improving your physical well-being, the Peloton groups are places for generally improving your mental well-being. That's what I’m aiming for anyway - to create a community where women benefit from the therapeutic value of sharing, talking, listening and being heard in a respectful space.
In other words, I guess, benefit from quite simply bringing their heads together…