On Monday morning I left the UK for Vancouver to start my 18,000km solo run to Buenos Aires to raise awareness for a charity, CALM, that is working to raise awareness about male suicide. I was devastated to find out after my arrival that one of the world’s great entertainers had tragically taken his own life.
Robin Williams, a comedy genius loved all over the world, but also just a man who couldn’t come to terms with who he was. I am not going to use this blog to write more about on this tragic news but a friend emailed me an article by Russell Brand that is beautifully written – http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/12/russell-brand-robin-williams-divine-madness-broken-world
Suicide is a subject that no one likes to talk about. Its a subject that makes us feel uncomfortable but suicide can be the culmination of so many other things and I think that these are the things we need to be talking about. Ever since I started organising my expedition and announced that CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably, was going to be my main charity I have been struck at just how much people actually want to talk. Nearly everyone I have met has a relative or friends who has sadly taken their own life (mostly men) and in every instance they talk about two things – communication and loneliness. They all talk about how men in particular find it very hard to talk about their worries and concerns. They all remark that we have been brought up in a society where we believe it makes us appear weak to ask for help.
The perception of weakness and strength is an interesting debate. Does asking for help make you weak or does that actually make you strong? (more importantly does it matter) Some people may think that those with problems are weak but interestingly in many cases it is those who we perceive to be strong that actually feel insecure. You would be amazed at how many “happy”, “successful” and “confident” people have confided in me about how they can identify.
I get a lot of questions about why I have chosen the prevention of male suicide as my main charity. People automatically think I have lost someone close or have been in a dark place myself. Fortunately that is not the case. In no way am I going to try and directly compare my expedition with male suicide and depression but I believe comparisons can be drawn. To many the big numbers, 18,000km, 428 marathons, 600 days make the expedition challenging but that is not the case as they can all be broken down in to small manageable segments. It is the mental aspects that are going to be the true challenges that I need to overcome.
I am going to be alone for a lot of the 600 days, I am going to constantly question my ability to continue, I am going to have to reach out and ask people (mostly strangers) for help, I am going to rely on others (something I am not good at). I am going to document every aspect of the mental challenges that I am going to go through. I am going to keep a video diary that will show the highs and the lows. I am going to write how I feel on a white board and encourage others to tell me how they feel. I want people to see what I am doing and start a conversation – hopefully a conversation about the charities or reaching out to a friend asking for help.
Communication and loneliness go hand in hand. A conversation needs two people. If we can start a conversation and encourage others , then people might not feel so alone.