In the early hours of Sunday 24 April 2016 eleven others and I will get up at the crack of dawn to congregate in Greenwich Park. We will be patting each other on the back, saying “good luck” to perfect strangers and telling each other to “enjoy it”, safe in the knowledge that none of us are likely to enjoy much of the coming hours. That’s because we will be about to run the London marathon – 26.2 miles – in support of MQ.
Even if we all follow the more moderate of the many marathon training plans available, we will together have run something like 5,000 miles in preparation. That’s about the distance from London to Beijing. On that cold Sunday morning in April we will no doubt be asking ourselves one simple question: ‘why?!’.
This is a question I have found myself asking a lot in the past few years. Not in the context of running a marathon (because I have never been daft enough to attempt one before), but in the context of mental health.
Without going through my entire life story, I have regrettably had cause to wonder things like: ‘why has this person I know been so debilitated by these mental health issues?’. ‘Why him?’. ‘Why my family?’. And ‘why now?’.
When someone is affected by a mental health condition my experience is that friends and family are often very willing to help out – indeed they’re often desperate to make some sense of what is going on – but they often end up with feelings of confusion, alienation and anger. Perhaps the question I have lingered on the most is ‘why do I feel so powerless to do anything?’.
It turns out that I am no better a position to answer these questions about my friends’ and families’ mental health conditions than I would be to diagnose them with a complex physical injury. The difference with physical injuries though, is that the medical profession has been working a lot harder and a lot longer to try to understand physical injuries and how to deal with them.
The more I talk to other people about mental health, the more I realise that my experience is both very typical and very telling of the lack of understanding that we currently have about mental health.
The research just hasn’t yet been done in the same way that it has been for many physical illnesses.
Thankfully though, MQ are here to change this. They are funding pioneering research into mental health. And the work that they do is inspiring to me personally, and ground breaking too.
In hindsight, having thought about it, maybe on that early Sunday morning in late April 2016 we won’t be asking ourselves ‘why?’. When we remind ourselves about the work that MQ is doing. The transformation they want to achieve. And the difference in the field of mental health research they will make, the more likely question might well be: ‘why did it take us this long to sign up in the first place?’.
Ed Belam is an employment lawyer in his late twenties and is based in London. He has a long-standing interest in mental health and became aware of MQ through a friend of a friend at work.
He is one of 12 runners from across the country who will be taking on the London marathon in support of MQ in April 2015: https://team-mq-london-marathon-2016.everydayhero.com/uk/edward
Last updated: 2 June 2016