Running for the mind

Posted: October 1, 2021

Trainee teacher, Ryan McNamee, knows from personal experience how devastating and isolating mental health struggles can be.

For Ryan, who works with Alternative Provision students at Leeds City College, being of service to others helps him manage his depression – as does talking openly to people he can trust.

So when he sets off at this year’s London Marathon on Sunday 3 October his goal won’t just be to cross the finishing line, but to raise as much money as he can for mental health charities.

Ryan has already raised more than £1,000 for Leeds Mind and Andy’s Man Club through the page he has set up for the event.

He said: “Due to Covid and how things have been, and suffering from depression myself, I wanted to do something rewarding and to support those who suffer from mental health problems.

“I also wanted to do something nice for my partner who lost her mum, due to mental health, in 2017. I tend to take each day as it comes but I know people are struggling.

“I cope by helping others, and that’s why I’m a teacher.”

It’s good to talk

Talking, in a safe and non-judgmental setting, is a tried and trusted way of helping to deal with a problem – though men, notoriously, often struggle to open up.

That’s a situation that Andy’s Man Club is determined to improve. The charity holds weekly talking groups all over the country, including in Leeds, for ‘men who have either been through a storm, are currently going through a storm or have a storm brewing’.

Ryan, whose teaching work includes supporting students with health and wellbeing, is glad to have the opportunity to back groups like this.

He said: “Running the marathon is a good way to raise awareness for mental health charities who can help, especially for men who have a higher suicide rate.

“I’ve suffered through life but talking to people, which is important, helped me quite a lot.

“It’s really important to talk to people that you trust, and knowing that people are there for you. People find it hard though, especially men.

“I always encourage my students to make use of the breakout spaces and our Oasis room.

“I had a tough time at university and it was a weight off my shoulders when I spoke to a counsellor.”

This is the second time Ryan will have run the London Marathon, which he previously completed in 2017 while raising money for the homeless.

He said: “I’ve been exercising and I’m looking to enjoy the moment.

“I’ll be travelling down to London with my partner, who’s been really supportive.”

Be kind to yourself

Ryan, who has a degree in sport science and previously studied at Wakefield College, has worked in Alternative Provision at Leeds City College for more than two years.

It is a challenging role that he enjoys.

He added: “In terms of my advice for people suffering with mental health issues I would say: talk to friends and family, there are people who care, I can promise you that. 

“You need to be kind to yourself and to others. Everyone has their own story and challenges they are going through.

“It’s ok to cry and be upset. Take a minute for yourself – self-care is important. You come first!

“Put energy into yourself before you put energy into others, break your days into easily achievable things, and celebrate each and every task you do.

“’Life is a bit like climbing a mountain. It takes a lot of steps, some of them really difficult ones that might make you want to give up, but when you reach the top the view is amazing.’’

This year’s World Mental Health Day takes place on Sunday 10 October and will focus on the theme of Mental Health in an Unequal World.

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