Former Adur council employee with chronic depression runs for Heads On to raise mental health awareness
A former Adur council employee who suffered chronic depression for decades is raising money for Heads On, the West Sussex charity that helped him find a way through.
Andrew Wilkinson worked for Adur District Council between 1984 and 1997 and has lived in Shoreham since 1990.
His depression meant holding down a job became increasingly difficult and it eventually led to his early retirement in 2012.
But then a lack of purpose added to his mental health issues, along with a decline in his physical fitness, and he hit the lowest point in his life.
After years of friendly encouragement, Andrew finally took up running in 2019 and soon discovered a course organised by Heads On, which helped him improve and considerably helped his depression.
Andrew said: “I wanted to raise funds for future Heads On running courses and also bring more awareness of mental health, so on December 20, I started the challenge of running 10k a day for 60 consecutive days, ending on February 17, my 60th birthday.
“I am halfway in my challenge and the fundraising has gone better than I could have wished for. However, no amount of promotion is enough to raise awareness and get rid of the stigma that comes with mental health issues.
“After several years in which my physical and mental health suffered badly, I took up running in 2019, starting with the 5k Saturday parkrun at Lancing Beach.
“Shortly afterwards I saw an advert for One Step At A Time, a running course in Worthing organised by Heads On, a mental health charity which promotes the importance of exercise for mental health, not just physical health.
“Since that time, my running has improved but more importantly it has helped my depression considerably, most of which is down to Heads On.”
Andrew said he had battled chronic depression for decades, both the symptoms and the stigma attached to it.
Running helped him to feel good about himself. His first 5k parkrun took nearly 40 minutes but he did it, and he carried on with it.
Andrew said: “Despite not being a natural runner and finishing near the back, just as I always did at school nearly 50 years ago, I returned the following week.
“A short while later, I saw an advert for the course run by Heads On. Very anxiously I made contact and went along to join the very friendly Worthing group of like-minded people. The coaches are amazing in giving running advice and encouragement. Equally important is the social contact you get with the after session cuppa.
“Since my lowest point after stopping work, I have lost nearly six stone in weight, run over 50 parkruns with my time improving to under 26 minutes, I can now run 10k and go out four or five times a week for a run. Most of that is due to Heads On.
“The Heads On courses cost money to organise and put on each week and I want to raise as much money as possible so other people suffering with mental health can get this help in the future.”
Andrew has set a target of £2,000 and is already not far off his target. Visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Andrew-wilkinson60 to make a donation.