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North East Blue Light Cycling Challenge in May 2018

To continue raising awareness during the Men’s Health Week 2018, we’ve discussed with John Smith, Police officer in Tyneside, about mental health in the emergency services and his journey as a fundraiser for Tyneside and Northumberland Mind.

John, tell us more about the Mind Blue Light Programme and why you fundraise for Tyneside and Northumberland Mind

No one should ever have to face a mental health problem alone. Yet, hundreds of thousands of people struggle daily. As a society, we have come a long way in the last 30 years. Our understanding of each other has improved, attitudes have changed (for the better) and support is growing.

Still, one in four people experience a mental health problem each year – and only 25% receive support. Members of the emergency services are even more at risk of experiencing mental health problems but are less likely to seek support.

Mind Blue Light Programme supports all emergency services across England and Wales – our journey is for those services in the North East, where we live, work and whose support we rely upon.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges with mental health problems?

It can be very difficult to know what to do to support someone with a mental health problem. Family, friends, carers often mean well but don’t always have the necessary information.

Would you say that men in the emergency services are facing more difficulties than women when it comes to mental health?

I can only offer an opinion as a man. The range of incidents and situations faced are no different but perhaps the negative attitudes to talking about mental health, particularly amongst males have historically made it more difficult.

However, these are at last breaking down and we are at a moment in time where we can make a real difference to many people.

What would you recommend to men facing mental health distress?

It’s a really simple recommendation: try to find someone you can talk to, who you’re comfortable with. Share what’s going on!

What are you doing to raise awareness?

I ride with 7 colleagues and friends from Whitehaven to Tynemouth 120 miles on 5th May. This has taken us all on a physical and personal journey. None of us are professional cyclists, but we’ve been able to complete the challenge in one day as we hoped.

Actively challenging mental health stigma, raising awareness and supporting people to make positive changes in their wellbeing is something we all feel strongly about.

How did you organised this challenge?

I always wanted to cycle the Coast to Coast.Doing it in a day with some great people was an opportunity to raise the profile of Blue Light and Mind locally - Northumberland and Tyneside Mind were the perfect match.

I’m just about entered the "modern age", so having support to set up social media platforms to aid sponsorship was a real journey of discovery.

Do you have any other projects to raise awareness?

Yes, personally I do but they are early stages. I did think about a marathon or a 24 hour cycle ride but my body is saying "Just hang on a minute!". So I'll see. I will no doubt do something.

How can people support the Blue Light campaign in the North East?

It’s very simple. You can support us and the Blue Light campaign withTyneside and Northumberland Mind by donating on our JustGiving page HERE.

Any last thoughts you'd like to share with our readers?

Mental health really does matter – the more we talk about it, the less taboo it becomes.

Generally, please think about the language you use. I still hear well intended people using "1970's language" when it comes to mental health. Mental health is not an adjective.

If you want to know more about the North East Blue Light, please visit their website HERE.

Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving - they'll never sell them on or send unwanted emails.

Once you donate, they'll send your money directly to the charity. It's the most efficient way to donate - saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

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Registered office: Tyneside Mind, Wellbeing Centre, Dunsmuir Grove, Bensham, Gatheshead NE8 4QL. Company Number: 7552434. Charity Number: 1140856.