Prince Harry wants the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon to be a platform to improve world mental health
Prince Harry wants the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon to be a “marathon for mental health”.
The Prince was speaking alongside his brother William and sister-in-law Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, at an event at London’s County Hall to mark World Mental Health Day.
The Royals - who are spearheading the Heads Together campaign to end the stigma surrounding mental health conditions - met with people who had battled psychological illness.
Heads Together is the Charity of the Year for the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon and Prince Harry see the event as the perfect platform to get the campaign known globally.
“One of the upcoming opportunities we have to spread the message about ending the stigma on mental health is the Virgin Money 2017 London Marathon – one of the largest sporting and mass participation events on earth,” he said.
“We want as many London Marathon runners as possible, spectators around the course and people watching at home to get involved and make it a marathon for mental health.
“All of us have mental health. So the more we all get behind this topic, the more we can help not just the individuals suffering, but also their entire families and work colleagues as well. Together we will break the stigma forever and save lives.”
Sharing the stage with the Royals were paramedics Dan Farnworth and Richard Morton. Their story proved so inspirational that Prince Harry was moved to ask them to run next year’s Virgin Money London Marathon for Heads Together.
“You can’t really say no when Prince Harry asks you,” laughed Farnworth who was helped to come to terms with post-traumatic stress disorder by his close friend and colleague Morton.
The pair are paramedics in Blackpool for the North West Ambulance Service. They have been supporting the Mind Blue Light campaign for emergency service workers since Farnworth was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following a horrific incident they encountered on a call-out where a child had died.
“I felt awful that I could do nothing to save the child,” recalled Farnworth. “I kept reliving it over and over again. I was withdrawn at work. I wasn’t talking to anyone. I was withdrawn from my family. I just wasn’t myself. The relief I felt when I eventually spoke to Richard about it was massive and I wish I had done it sooner. With his support, I went to see a GP and then on to see a counsellor and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Morton said: “In this job you often see things that stay with you and you have to be there for each other. Even though I was there for Dan, I know that if it was the other way round, he would be there for me too. We are humans and not robots. People need to know they can talk about it.”
Farnworth believes it was the pair’s shared experiences of life in the service that struck a chord with Prince Harry, who spent 10 years in the Army, including two tours to Afghanistan.
“We were just in awe of all the Royals and how down to earth they were,” Farnworth said. “After we did our speech, Prince Harry came to find us to shake our hands and said our story was amazing and that this was the kind of story we need to be hearing. Then he asked us if we were doing the London Marathon and we couldn’t say no! I think there is a link there because those people who work in a service do have a bond, regardless of rank.”
The duo have just completed a 130-mile coast-to-coast walk from Scarborough to Blackpool so are no strangers to physical exertion – although they admit running is something a bit different. But they both agreed that the training will give them plenty of opportunity to do what Heads Together wants us all to be doing – talking more with one other.
Morton said: “If the walk is anything to go by, it gives you the space to think about things and talk to one another and that’s what we are trying to encourage.”
Farnworth added: “I suppose you could say we will be running towards a mental health future!”